Get ready to fight (for love).
Earlier this year, Outside Magazine commissioned a lengthy article on Oiselle. At eight pages, it went to new depths about our mission, our rise as a company, and the sport of track & field. But when I later saw the digital headline, "The Woman Who Took on Nike with a Pair of Running Shorts," I winced.
Yes, I’ve had my beefs with Nike. [Their positive contributions to the running ecosystem come with hefty reduction clauses, so to speak. Among the most daunting is the company's twenty-three year contract with the USATF, a tax-exempt non-profit created to protect the interests of athletes, coaches, & officials. It's a contract that threatens the very mission of the USATF for decades to come, through the year of 2040.] But that's not what made me wince.
I winced because we've never been motivated by following or benchmarking others.
What does motivate us is the belief that a small group of athletes based in Seattle have the skill and resources to not only design premium apparel and gear, but also foster a connected team of women around the world who show up for each other.
And this has been one of my biggest realizations about the broader notion of activism, sport or otherwise: when we contribute and care deeply in any given area, the rules, systems, and "way it's always been done" that are unjust will present themselves. And as it turns out, the world is an unjust place. Power structures, gender gaps, wealth distribution, political corruption, and the under-representation of the neediest populations.
There's so much it's easy to get overwhelmed to the point of inaction.
But this is exactly when we need to body slam the status quo and recommit to giving a shit. And while I'm no paragon of do-gooder-ism, one of the things I've learned is that we have the most potential to create positive change in the areas we occupy.
For Oiselle, as the sponsor of professional athletes, what we see is that...
It's time for athletes to receive their fair share of the spoils.
I have seen, with my own eyes, reasonable proposals from athletes for better revenue sharing get stillborn into the dysfunctional politicking that is USATF governance. It's time for the sport to have a reasonable and just governing body that does more than protect its long and lucrative partnerships. (Hallelujah, Lauren Fleshman is now an athlete representative to the USATF Board).
It's time to make room at the table for other businesses that support track & field, and ask hard questions of a USATF CEO whose impartiality is compromised by personal business gains.
It's time for the IOC and USOC to stop operating like rogue states that live in five-star opulence while Olympians scrape by on next-to-nothing stipends and a box full of Team USA clothing.
It's time for the sport world to wake up and take systemic doping seriously, before we learn that every medal, every podium, every magical athletic moment is a drug-fueled lie.
And yes, it's time for small companies like Oiselle, that have the capacity to support and develop Team USA members and Olympians to be rewarded with - at the very least, a seat at the table - rather than threats of legal action and financial ruin.
Bottom line, now more than ever, the world needs activists. You just gotta find the places you know, and the places you can make a difference.
After all, an activist is simply someone who "uses action to bring about social change." Or a person who is not only willing to defend their own rights and values, but also those of others.
And while we're all getting ready for 2017, warming up our vocal cords and brushing off our marching boots, let's remember that while there is no justice without a fight, the heart of the fight is respect - and love.
Our mission: Make great product. Improve the sport. Build the sisterhood.