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Richards-Ross: Ja's top stars back union call

Published:Saturday | October 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Sanya Richards-Ross

Andre Lowe, Senior Staff

Jamaica-born US track and field star Sanya Richards-Ross believes that she has the full support of Jamaica's biggest stars, as she continues to spearhead an ever-growing global labour movement in the sport.

Richards grabbed headlines during the Olympic Games in London, when she publicly spoke out against certain commercial restrictions implemented by the organisers of the games, raising several social issues faced by less successful athletes and sparking calls for the unionisation of the sport.

The International Olympic Committee declared that athletes could not promote the companies that sponsor them unless they were in fact Olympic sponsors as well.

Jamaica's track and field top brass have called for greater support for athletes, who continue to struggle financially but have been largely quiet concerning the proposed global track and field union.

top athletes on board

However, Richards, the Olympic 400m champion and IAAF World Athlete of the Year nominee, said that the unionisation efforts have received the endorsement of some of Jamaica's most important competitors.

"I have spoken to Usain (Bolt), (Yohan) Blake, Shelly-Ann (Fraser-Pryce); the only top athlete I have not spoken to as yet is VCB (Veronica Campbell-Brown), but they are all on board and all want to be part, so we are just working on what that is going to look like," Richards-Ross told The Gleaner in a recent interview, underlining that the issues they are looking to address affect athletes right across the globe.

"It's the reality across the world, where if you aren't among the very best you struggle to make a living, and I think that's an injustice when you have so many persons working hard in the sport to represent their country," said Richards-Ross. "I think that with a lot of money being made it definitely deserves to trickle down to the athletes so that we can continue to entertain and to have a great living, because it is a lot of hard work."

More than US$1 billion was generated in sponsorship for London 2012 with the IOC bringing in US$7.8 billion in broadcast revenues alone in the four years leading up to the games. Global corporate giants McDonald's, Coca-Cola and others have paid over US$1.5 billion to the IOC over the last three years.

"A lot of things have happened in our sport and we just hear it and roll with the punches, but I think it's time for us to unionise and have a voice so that our sport continues to grow and that we have an opportunity to earn a living," Richards-Ross added, before reporting that the reception to the charge has been extremely positive in the US and across the globe.

"It's really going great. I think that after being in the sport for nearly 10 years, you start to realise that there are things that you must do to leave the sport better than when you came in, and I think the start of that is having the athletes come together so that we can have a united voice," she said.