FREE BAHATI?

by Adam on May 27, 2013 · 4 comments

Rahsaan Bahati has been suspended by USA Cycling.

If that were a headline on some professional cycling publication, most would fairly assume it would have something to do with the use of a banned substance. Most publicized suspensions seem to fall in that category these days. However those that have followed Rahsaan’s career would never make that leap in judgement. He wasn’t suspended over the use of a banned substance. So what happened?

In this post,  I would like to share with you my experience with trying to understand what happened and more importantly understand what this really means to me.

I discovered Rahsaan had been suspended via his Facebook page. For me, this is an unusual place to get news, as most breaking news related to pro cycling seems to come via Twitter.

From Rahsaan via Facebook:

I feel like I’ve been singled out. I will miss Athens Twilight, Dana Point GP and 2 other races due to a suspension handed down by USA Cycling for “allegedly” crashing a fellow rider at the Cigar City crit in Tampa Bay last month. In my 20 years of racing I have never, ever, caused harm to a fellow rider. Maybe its time to hang the bike up because I’ve been on the wrong side of the stick numerous times. Don’t believe me? See 2010 Dana Point GP. Nuff said!!!

I’m Mad

I immediately got mad. Why did I get upset? What really bothered me about the suspension? Perhaps my sensitivities toward being singled out, my general distrust of USA Cycling and my support for Rahsaan lead me down this path.

I have supported Rahsaan’s foundation (The Bahati Foundation) through donations and will continue to do so. I’m a fan at heart. I pour over result sheets each week to see where he finishes, I’ve listened to his “Chocolate Rocket Monday’s” for the past couple of years, I bought a kit and raced road last season registered under the Bahati Foundation. I met him in person a couple of years ago at the Clarendon Cup and he left me with nothing but the best first impression. Gregg and I interviewed him on the District Cycling Podcast just after the Dana Point incident, and Rahsaan was open and honest with us. I’m a fan and supporter.

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Again, I’m a fan and I’m a supporter. This is where it starts to go a bit sideways.

Let’s Make A T-Shirt

Immediately after hearing about the incident, I made up my mind. Rahsaan had been singled out by USA Cycling. There was no possible way it could be anything other than that. I began to read comments from other pro cyclists who came to Rahsaan’s defense. The overwhelming sentiment from this group seemed to be Rahsaan was singled out and nothing happened that should have resulted in a suspension.

I emailed my buddy about the incident and he seemed to have a very similar response to mine. To show my support, I wanted to do a t-shirt. “Free Bahati” came to mind. I tried to absolve myself of those foul “Let Levi Ride” shirts and come up with something better, but “Free Bahati” seemed appropriate. My buddy came up with the idea to use “Free Bahati” with the classic Run DMC style font. We wanted to use proceeds to fund the Bahati Foundation. Here is the shirt design:

Bahati2

I had an email cued up to Rahsaan asking for his permission. No sooner than I could hit send, the following blog post began to circulate. “USA Cycling’s Black Eye”. The fist line in the post, “USA Cycling hates black people”. Only a few days ago I was mad, now I am sick.

The Line Is Drawn

I don’t want to go into intricate detail about my feelings related to that blog post. In short, I don’t agree with the sentiments shared by the author. If you really want to understand my feelings about race in this country and my experiences with racism and discrimination specifically with USA Cycling, let’s hang out and get to know each other. In order for you to understand my core values, you have to understand where I came from and what I’ve experienced.

One experience that I will share has small bit of relevance to my feelings about USA Cycling and whether I feel like they “hate black people”. Last year I filed a complaint against a rider who used racial slurs against me at a race. USA Cycling fined and suspended the rider. While that doesn’t give them a “we love black people” free pass, it’s a direct example of USA Cycling taking the appropriate measure to remedy a hate driven, racially charged incident against me (a minority). The investigators I talked with on the phone expressed a genuine concern over the issue and were very detailed in their report. I did have some administrative delays with disciplinary panel, but overall I felt like the issue was handled appropriately.

USA Cycling has a responsibility to grow the sport and increase diversity.  USA Cycling is failing and they are flawed. I don’t think “they” hate black people. Take a moment and really think about the “they” referenced in that statement and you will see the flaw in the argument. History tells us the most impacting efforts to engage and empower black folks are ignited in the black community and make progress through collaborative efforts across the race divide. Rahsaan’s work through his foundation is a great example.

The article made me pause. It made me pause, step back and ask myself what the hell is happening here. I don’t know any of the facts, other than Rahsaan’s Facebook posts. I didn’t discover the accuser’s name without an extensive internet search. The incident didn’t hit any of the major cycling publications or websites. USA Cycling didn’t issue a press releases that I am aware of.

I eventually changed my mind and didn’t want to do the shirt. I didn’t want to associate myself with an issue I didn’t fully understand. I craved facts. I wanted to see video. I wanted to see the USA Cycling recommendation. I wanted to see the transcripts. I wanted to hear from more riders. I just wanted to know what happened.

After some time, more began to come out on Rahsaan’s Facebook page. I learned it was a spectator that filed the complaint. I found out the accusers name. The accusers mom posted on Rahsaan’s Facebook page. I was starting to get small bits, but I still lacked the bigger picture I was hoping to get.

I decided to sit on the sidelines and watch this uncover a bit. I wasn’t ready to take a side, and I didn’t want to get into a internet battle over race relations and whether minorities are discriminated against.

I guess I could have just emailed Rahsaan and asked him what happened…

Again, no coverage from any of my usual cycling media outlets…

Now What?

Someone made a t-shirt. Someone created a Facebook fan page called Let Bahati Race. I visited the site inquiring more about the facts and didn’t get a response to my inquiry. There is a lot of talk about “making statements”. I would love to see Rahsaan race again. If the statement intended to be made is simply a desire to want to see Bahati race again, I’m all about that. If the statement intended goes beyond simply wanting him to race and into the discrimination/unfair treatment territory, I need more facts.

Most millennial generation x folks nowadays have strong desires to get behind causes. The discrimination and economic barriers in this country are intricately woven into our fabric, it’s hard to see. The disease is systemic and young passionate people often just look for an easy remedy without a proper diagnosis of the problem. I find myself falling into this trap a lot.

Perhaps we will learn more about what happened with Rahsaan in due time. I will continue to be a supporter of his foundation and I really look forward to seeing him race again soon.

{ 4 comments }

Big E May 29, 2013 at 3:20 pm

An excellent post Adam. I’m so glad to see the desire to look at all sides before making a judgement and I whole heartedly agree with your assessment of people’s tendency to want an easy answer or an easy fix. It’s high time most people realize that the right thing and the easy thing are rarely one in the same. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Retro Italia May 30, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I’ve got to admit I’m as surprised as you are about all of this. At the very least I’d expect USAC to issue a formal notice somewhere on their site that detailed the complaint and their reasoned decision, assuming it is reasoned. Without that it all seems a bit “behind closed doors” and leaving behind the (possible) issue of race it also has implication on anyone else who gets caught up in an event in the heat of the moment but could face a much greater penalty than anyone would reasonably expect. (Not implying that is what has happened here but that’s the sort of fear that can arise from knowing a punishment without the logic behind it)

john May 31, 2013 at 7:33 am

I hear mate but over the last 20 years I have learned not to become a fanboy, this is not singled out to Bahati whom I’m sure is a great guy, just don’t cult a single person, even your best or your father might be a hidden asshole at a certain moment. I’m always fascinated by the fanboys out there.

Retro Italia June 8, 2013 at 5:33 am

Good points John, I’ve got to admit I learnt that the hard way with Armstrong :(

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