Sram put out this video a few days ago in an attempt to both be funny and different.
It failed. Hugely.
It didn’t just fail because it wasn’t funny from anybody’s point of view, or because the lack of regard for details (no one could tell that that was an unlit cigarette). It didn’t even fail because it was generally cringe-worthy and an example of why you shouldn’t ask professional athletes to attempt to act.
It failed because not one person in that video is a minority, and nobody noticed.
In another, earlier year, I may have let it pass. Cycling, after all, has always been dominated by white athletes, white fans, and white amateurs. I can’t recall a single Rapha Continental rider who wasn’t white, and a quick look at the Rapha website today shows that nothing has changed. When the cycling industry made the push to include more women, it ended up with women, just no minority women. Yet, in a year when the “President” of the United States picked a fight with minority athletes, when neo-Nazis and white supremacists have killed innocent people, when racial tensions and discord seem as high as ever, it apparently still wasn’t enough for Sram to take notice. This video was nevertheless approved by the ladder of executives at Sram as suitable material for their public relations campaign. Worst of all, someone actually got paid for this.
I understand that the best cyclocross athletes may not include minorities (a bigger issue that goes beyond this particular post), but would it have killed Sram to find a minority employee at the Zipp factory to play a part in this video? Or worse, were there none to find?
Or, is this a statement by a global cycling parts manufacturer that minorities have no part in cycling and the cycling industry?
I’d like to give Sram the benefit of the doubt, but question the values of a company that can’t recognize its own lack of diversity. To be fair, it’s not only Sram; most companies in the cycling industry fail to include minorities in their American or European marketing campaigns. Only when minorities are a majority – for example, in Asian countries – are non-white models and riders ever mentioned or featured. On a less corporate level, I’ve heard laughter in response to a Rapha employee calling the predominantly Dominican Republician GS Mengoni team in New York City, as being “too brown” to include him.
Whenever I mention that I’m trying to get back into riding, a non-white friend who used to ride as much as I did will always ask, half jokingly, why I’d want to do such a thing.
“Why do you want to hang out with racists?” He’ll say.
“…I still like it,” I respond.
I have no other defense, and this video only seems to prove my friend right. Nor am I optimistic that it’ll become more inclusive. But maybe, eventually, if we scream loud enough for long enough, the cycling industry will take notice, and get it right.