DeSena Responds To Podium Controversy

Spartan Podium

We heard from Joe DeSena late yesterday in regards to the recent Spartan Race podium rule changes. Here is what he sent us.

I’m here in Tokyo and find myself wanting to write my friends directly. I haven’t read anything online, but a few people in our organization have said, “Wow, I can’t believe what some people are writing about the new Spartan podium rules.” Even though I never read these ridiculous things, I believe all press is good. 

I realize that I need to offer clarity to everyone who’s confused, frustrated, or simply impacted. I apologize for not contacting each of you directly, but in the interest of time—and because I want to be completely open about this—I thought this email was a better choice of communication. 

So, feel free to share this message. Or not. And also always know that the world has my email address should they want to talk to me.

There’s an old adage: “Before you criticize a person, walk a mile in his or her shoes.” This saying was first coined by the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans as “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.”

Henry Ford also said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

In other words, when you understand what drives another person’s perspective, you’re not only likely to have a complete view of the subject but are likely to regard the other person’s viewpoint with greater empathy. 

That’s what I’m doing now. I’m walking in the shoes of the elites: What’s the issue with the rule Spartan has put forth and how does it negatively impact the elite athletes we’ve helped develop over the past 7 years? I suspect they’re concerned that if they have to take a photo on our podium in standard Spartan gear, it will hurt their chances of earning sponsorship dollars. I suspect they also believe that being told what to wear is not American. 

These are valid concerns. I realize now that I should have fully explained this rule, along with the reasons for it, before we released it. I take complete responsibility and hope this message helps create clarity around these changes.

Here’s why we are putting this rule in effect: We believe obstacle racing is a sport. We also believe that for it to be recognized globally as a sport—not only by the elites, but by civilians, military, and the Olympic Committee itself—we need to start acting like a sport. 

This is not just an opinion. I have been working for 6-plus years trying to get us recognized by the Olympics, so that we can be included in the Games. I have had countless meetings with individuals who know what it requires, and several who are involved in decisions like this.  

The common themes in all these conversations: professionalism and consistency—in everything from how our elites dress to the branding of our events. To that end, it’s vital to the brand and our sponsors that we not allow our podium to be hijacked.

Your turn: Walk in Spartan management’s shoes for a minute. Imagine how taken aback we are when an elite quickly rips off his shirt to slip into one from another brand in front of our NBC cameras? Or how we feel when we get a call from one of our sponsors, which help finance 200 races in 30 countries annually, berating us. Lets be clear- there is NO Spartan Race without these sponsors. Luckily, we are Spartans. We move past it and don’t get upset. You can forgive in one minute or carry anger for a lifetime, that said- not everyone is like us.

The bottom line is this: We all want this to become a legitimately recognized sport, with participation and spectator rates as high as the other major sports. Together, we can continue to grow Spartan and make the world a healthier place along the way. We are well positioned to take that next step. Professionalism and consistency is a small price to pay. 

In fact, from my perspective, it is logical, and helps us all win. I hope this email will help you begin to see it in much the same way. Stay tuned for more updates. 

Joe- your friend in good times and bad.

Joe@spartan.com

We’d love to know your thoughts on Joe’s statements. Please comment below and let us know.

*Photo credit: Trek and Run