Posted by Glenn Ribotsky on April 14, 2007 at 22:27:51:
In a reprise of an issue brought up here two years ago, the following was sent several days ago to the designated e-mail of the race committee at the Staten Island Advance, and by e-mail to Jack Minogue, George Kochman, and the Advance Sports Editors. No response has been forthcoming.
All opinions are welcomed. Unlike last time, though, let's try to discuss the issue, not the writer.
To the race committee and all other interested parties:
Perhaps I had not noticed this in previous years, but in looking at this year's Staten Island Advance Memorial Day Run application, I noticed the following in the "fine print" of the waiver:
"The undersigned understands the Run Committee reserves the right to refuse entry to any individual or organization . . ."
It would appear that this provision might be opening up a huge can of worms, as I, and I am sure others, wonder under what circumstances the provision might be invoked--that is, who could be refused entry.
Some years ago, I wrote a long piece on race managment, since reprinted many times, that addressed the issue of denying race entry. It's too long to reprint here, but here's the essence:
"In our experience, there are only four supportable grounds for the rejection of a race entry:
-- The race fills to capacity (a capacity which should be noted on all race literature and advertisements); in which case the entrant is entitled to a full refund.
--The entrant does not send in the appropriate entry fee, or does not fill in the appropriate data necessary on the entry form, or does not sign the waiver (and, since this may be due to oversight or accident, a good faith attempt should be made on the part of the race director or committee to contact such an entrant and inform him/her of this, with an opportunity to supply what is missing).
--Clear and documentable evidence of a violation of the rules of competition in a previous edition of the event--basically, some form of cheating to gain advantage in the final outcome.
--Clear and documentable evidence of violation of the rules of competition in other events (this need not just involve similar events; we would feel justified in banning an entrant, for example, from an ultramarathon if there is incontrovertible evidence of cheating in a 5-kilometer race).
In addition, one ground on which it would not be acceptable to reject an entry would be the judgment of the race directors that an individual did not possess the training or physique to adequately complete the event. While obvious distress would be grounds for removing someone FROM an event, it can't be used to deny them a start--all race directors (myself included) have had experience with severely overweight entrants who showed up just to walk all or part of a race, or who even surprised by competing quite beyond what a cursory glance would assume they could. In any case, this is why properly written race waivers ask entrants to attest they understand the risks associated with competing, and to attest they are physically capable of and trained for the event. It's also why a properly organized race has access to some type of first response medical resources, if these are needed."
Since the waiver on the application for this race was written within normal parameters, including language that involves claim of being properly trained for the event, there seems to be no reason for the language in question. In fact, it would seem that such language might be troublesome--it in fact has been for other races past and present, especially those held on public grounds (as the Advance Memorial Day Run is).
For instance, the Long Island Greenbelt Ultramarathon could not get permission from the national governing body of running--USA Track and Field--to be considered as a championship event several years ago, until such language was removed. Several municipalities through which this race proceeded also considered revoking permission to use their streets. (The issues surrounding this can be Googled up by Internet through the magazine Ultrarunning and other ultra running sites.)
Normally, the granting of license to use streets and or other public grounds, such as park land, carries with it the implication that the committee putting on an event will abide by the regulations of the City of New York (or any locality involved). There is considerable legal disagreement as to whether a private entity using public facilities can exclude anyone from an event--as witness the controvery over the Ancient Order of Hibernians excluding homosexual/bisexual/transgender groups from the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The placing of such language in an application leads to the logical question as to what grounds there might be for denying entry, and how arbitrary these grounds might be. Would they involve race? Nationality? Suspected criminal background? Political affiliation? Staff from rival media outlets?
I would urge you to consider a modification to this waiver language, as the other provisions that seem to be necessary are already there, and this language cannot lead to anything but adverse and contentious consequences, as anyone refused entry would have reasonable grounds for demanding explanation and/or seeking redress, neither of which can be healthy for the race or its public image.
Chair, New York Road RAce OmbudsAssociation
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