With social unrest dominating American life last week – even eclipsing COVID-19 concerns – and even as a number of run specialty retailers were victims of looting in cities across America many in the running community took the opportunity reach out with their own social messages.
Two of the most poignant and direct came from independent retailer
Brooklyn Running Company, located in the heart of Brooklyn, New York, and from the headquarters of Fleet Feet in Carrboro, NC. Those two strong messages are excerpted here:
Brooklyn Running Company:
As an organization, we rarely – if ever – speak out on matters such as social and racial injustice, and more specifically, the systemic racism that has plagued our nation for too many years. Trust that our silence over the past few weeks has been conflicted and tortured. Trust that our silence is not borne from indifference.
Why have we said nothing?
We were afraid. Afraid to appear opportunistic. Afraid to appear disingenuous. Afraid to look in the mirror and acknowledge that we don't know enough, do enough. We were never neutral, but what we do know is that silence and inaction is choosing the wrong side of history. In this time of divisiveness and persistent injustice, we mourn for our nation, we mourn for our city, and we mourn for Brooklyn. But to #runwithmaud or advocate #justiceforgeorgefloyd and then get on with one's life is not just insufficient, it is complicit. We need to hold ourselves accountable.
So what are we going to do?
- VOLUNTEER: As part of our standard employment agreement, each member of our team will participate in – at minimum – quarterly volunteer efforts with non-profit organizations committed to addressing social and racial injustices. We will shut down our shops once per quarter as a "volunteer day" to facilitate.
- DIVERSITY: We will intensify existing efforts to foster an inclusive organization that includes greater measures to diversify our team with POC and the LGBTQ+ community.
- ADVOCACY: NYC's running community is exceptional in this regard, but we will use our platform, reach and events to foster an ever-inclusive running community that isn't blind to society's inequities, rather makes best efforts to understand, call-out and address them.
- EDUCATE: We will continue to educate ourselves on the history, causes and effects of racial privilege, inequity and injustice.
- DONATE: This week we will make a donation to a local non-profit that is active and engaged in these critical matters. Please be patient with us as we evaluate our options, as so many have merit.
Is this enough?
No. Not even close. But it's a start. And as in running, there is no finish line.
The Brooklyn Running Company Team
Fleet Feet Corporate
To Our Partners, Competitors and Friends in the Running Industry
We are living in uncomfortable and scary times.
For the black community, though, uncomfortable and scary is nothing new. Systemic racism is a sad reality of our culture and has been since the beginning of our country.
We can pretend that plain fact is not true. We can refuse to talk openly about it. We can even continue to try to ignore it. But none of that will make things better.
Pretty words will not solve ugly problems. The time is long overdue for something more than talk, hand wringing, or thinking wishful, happy thoughts. It’s time for those of us who run the system to change the system. It’s time to take meaningful and lasting action.
The running industry has long patted itself on the back about being inclusive. We tell ourselves that when we run together it doesn’t matter whether you are fast or slow, big or small, male or female. And that it doesn’t matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, or what political group you belong to. But, if that were really true, then the starting lines of our races would look much different. The customers in our stores would be much more diverse, as would our employee ranks. If you’re reading this, or you’re one of the people in the running industry to whom this message was forwarded, the odds are overwhelmingly high that you are not a person of color. Being inclusive doesn’t really mean much if the people you proclaim to include aren’t showing up.
Our long-standing silence and inaction with regard to systemic racism is equivalent to participation. We here at Fleet Feet are not pointing fingers; rather, we’re extending our hand and asking you to join us. We have stayed quiet for far too long ourselves. We have made all the excuses you can think of to not jump into the fray.
But now, enough is enough. As I sit here today, I’m not entirely sure what all of our actions will be. We do not have all the answers.
There is no doubt that a committed group of like-minded people from this amazing industry can find ways to make a real and sustainable difference. Whether you are a competitor, a partner, or a friend of Fleet Feet, we know that all of you help shape our communities in amazing and inspiring ways. When this industry puts its mind to reaching a goal, just like the runners we serve, we are at our best. We will need to run together like never before in order to reach this finish line.
There are some of you out there, including our own franchisees, who are better at this that we are. We would like to hear about your programs and ideas and learn from you. We can band together to create a movement within our circle of influence and control that will impact our communities forever.
So the question for today is, “Will you join us?” All we need from you now, is a simple two-word response, “We’re in” or “We’re out”. We will follow up accordingly.
Fleet Feet | President & CEO
310 East Main St., Suite 200
Carrboro, NC 27510