Ten Takeaways from Fred Kerley’s miserable visit to New York

1. In one of the most egregious false starts this journalist has ever seen, Fred Kerley false started, leaped and fell at the start of the 100 meters.

2. Fred Kerley seemed to be jumping, but, per Ato Boldon, the TV showed that his block had slipped. Fred asked for a new set of blocks, believing he would get new ones.

3. Per announcer Ato Boldon, Fred Kerley false-started, and his blocks moved as well. It was held as a false start. Fred Kerley did tell the assembled media, “ I did not false-start.”

4. But that was only part of the story. Take a look at Mr. Kerley’s uniform. At the time of the race, Mr. Kerley was assumed to be sponsored by ASICS, and ASICs had made special shoes for the 2022 World Champion. The problem is that Mr. Kerley was wearing PUMA spikes, an obvious violation of any running brand’s rules about wearing a competitive uniform, much less footwear.

5. Thanks to social media, the story became even more clouded, as several outlets noted that they had official communications from ASICS noting that Mr. Kerley was no longer sponsored by the number 3 brand in the world and that, to put it bluntly, Mr. Kerley was wished good fortune in his future endeavors.

6. I’m no rocket scientist, but Fred Kerley and his team have some issues. If, as Mr. Kerley noted, he forgot his track spikes at the airport, there are ASICS stores all over NYC, and Mr. Kerley, his agent, or his friend could have grabbed a pair of spikes. One thinks the ASIC’s separation happened before the bad opera at Randalls Island.

Fred Kerley, New York City Grand Prix track & field
World Athletics Continental Gold, photo by Kevin Morris

7. Fred Kerley is a talented athlete. But the drama in the 100 meters was not good for Kerley, his management team, or any brand related to him. He also has the right to race in shoes that fit him and do not cause him pain. Other athletes have left brands and moved to a shoe that supports their needs. That seems to be a big part of the story. In my mind, the issue of the day was how a world-class athlete, who was under a big sponsorship deal, consciously violated an agreement on global TV, running for one brand and wearing another. It seems that the athlete’s animosity for the brand overcame common sense. The sad thing is, TV showed Fred Kerley afterwards, signing autographs and talking to the media: Fred Kerley is popular with fans and media.

8. So, on a weekend when many were looking forward to Fred Kerley racing the 100m and delivering on his promise that he was taking on the world record, Fred Kerley was Dqed. He lost his sponsor (and that was a sizable sponsorship), which has made it a challenge to find a new sponsor. The sad truth is that Fred Kerley is one of our most popular athletes, and social media will celebrate this conundrum. Suppose you believe that any publicity is good publicity. In that case, you are probably not a comms manager, marketing manager, or sports marketing manager at one of the fifty running footwear brands we monitor at RunBlogRun.

9. Track and field is in the limelight right now as we build to the Olympics. A series of fiascos marred what should have been a wonderful afternoon of track and field. It shows that if track and field athletes and managers want the money they deserve, they need to improve the quality of their performances and actions. This situation around the Men’s 100 meters was not good for the sport.

10. In speaking with sports marketing professionals today, I did not find anyone who saw Mr. Kerley’s approach to poorly fitted shoes is an approach that they would support. I also spoke with several non-footwear brands that are looking for athletes, and the whole situation concerned them and would make them think a second time about using a track and field athlete. We are dealing with that in the battle for consistent coverage of our sport, developing popular rivalries, and moving our sport up the global marketing chain. Right now, track and field is behind professional walleye fishing.

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