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Khadevis Robinson is an American runner who specializes in the 800m distance. He has proven to be one of the fastest and most consistent 800m runners that the US has produced. A four-time US champion both outdoors and indoors, he has competed at seven consecutive IAAF World Championships in Athletics, from 1999 to 2011 and is a two-time Olympian.
Khadevis or “KD” as he is known in some circles owns a personal best time of 1:43.68. He is currently at Ohio State University as coach of the women’s cross-country squad and is a distance coach for the women’s track and field team. Robinson is former head cross-country coach at UNLV, and President of the Track and Field Athletes Association.
The interview below is focused on the TFAA and a controversial rule called Rule 40, which prevents professional athletes from displaying sponsor logos when competing in the Olympics.
“Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.”
Christopher Kelsall: What is your role with the TFAA?
Khadevis Robinson: I am the President and CEO of the TFAA.
Provide leadership to position the TFAA as the leading advocate for elite athlete’s rights within the professional track and field community. Develop a strategic plan to advance the TFAA’s mission and objectives and to promote revenue, profitability and growth as an organization. Oversee TFAA operations to insure production quality, service, and cost-effective management of resources.
1. Develop a strategic plan to advance the TFAA’s mission and objective and to promote revenue opportunities, growth, and visibility of the organization.
2. Oversee TFAA operations to insure quality, service, and cost-effective management of resources.
3. Plan, develop, and implement strategies for generating new strategic partnerships, opportunities, and/or revenue for the TFAA and its members.
4. Identify strategic partnerships with other member organizations or for-profit entities that will advance the mission of the TFFA.
5. Approve the procedures, policies, and standards of the TFAA.
6. Review activity reports and financial statements to determine progress and status in attaining objectives and revise objectives and plans in accordance with current conditions.
7. Evaluate performance of staff and members for compliance with established standards and objectives.
8. Promote the TFAA through media – written, online, and televised.
9. Represent the TFAA at committee meetings, legislative sessions, and formal functions.
10. Build a fundraising network.
11. Build and maintain relationships with the USOC, USATF, AAC, and other organizations critical the advancement of the TFAA’s missions and objectives.
12. Present TFAA report at the Annual Meeting to the Board of Advisors.
CK: Was there a catalyst or defining moment that provoked you to create the TFAA?
KR: Well, the TFAA has been in the works for a while. The one thing that made us really start to make a push was Rule 40. We really felt that the sport was not moving forward in a positive way where everyone wins.
CK: Can you explain Rule 40 and specifically what it is about Rule 40 that is a challenge for athletes?
KR: The controversial rule prohibits Olympians from mentioning or promoting any sponsor during the Olympic Games unless that sponsor is an official Olympic sponsor. The rule has roots in the idea that Olympians ought to be amateur athletes -, which is a concept that ended in 1992. No one wants to go back to an Olympics that exclude professional athletes. It is one thing to regulate the visibility of brands on athletes while they are competing, but to extend regulations to what an athlete posts on his or her personal social networking site is not fair.
CK: I notice that there is a plan to negotiate for more appropriate compensation for the competing athletes. Does this move athletes away from agents and into this association? Is there an agent-representative with TFAA?
KR: That is not the case. There will still be athlete representation by agents. We just felt that being a professional track and field athlete is similar to being self-employed. The athlete has to have a certain level of professionalism and have to be able to promote their brand. Sometimes the athlete will have to be more proactive in representing themselves. The TFAA does have legal councel.
CK: In regards to the following statement, “We recognized that the challenges faced by track and field athletes are not limited to Team USA. In order to grow our sport, we must establish a unified voice across the international community of athletes,” specifically, what challenges are you referring to?
KR: The plight of the professional USA track and Field athlete is similar to the plight of athletes from other countries. The challenges that are faced are the challenges of making a sustainable income. The challenge of finding and maintaining quality sponsors. The challenge of having adequate health and medical benefits. The challenge of putting away for retirement.
CK: So it is a broader issue than simply wanting compensation during Olympics for displaying logos. Who funds the TFAA?
KR: The TFAA only has funds from membership fees and donations. It is our goal and hope to continue to find other ways of funding. As of now, myself and all other individuals in leadership positions are volunteers.
CK: How are you recruiting new members?
KR: We are recruiting new members by talking to them face-to-face, emails, and social media. Any time and any place we can offer information about the TFAA and it’s goals, we are always open to do just that.
CK: It appears that you have nearly 180 members and several more associate members. In terms of bargaining on behalf of athletes, you must have a fair sized staff to tackle all the events they will be involved in.
KR: Our staff is not large, yet we are all very dedicated. Our membership is actually not fully represented by the numbers you see on the site. We have so many professionals that may not be athlete or non-athlete members that support our cause. The important thing everyone must understand is that we simply want to make the sport better. We feel that there is a win-win for everyone. That being the case, we have a great amount of support.
CK: Do you have a drug use policy for members?
KR: There is a no-tolerance policy within the entire track and field community regarding drug use. It is obvious that we feel the playing field should be free of illegal drug use.
CK: Does the TFAA have any legaleze or plan to have legaleze that clearly indicates that there is a zero-tolerance policy on drug use in place?
KR: At this point we are more focused on the issues related to representing the professional track and field athlete. I am sure in the near future, there is a possibility that we will look into this option further.
CK: What is the collective goal of the TFAA in respect to numbers of members?
KR: Our goal is to have all professional athlete, both domestic and international, to become members of the TFAA.