Shirtgate – 03/07/15
By Walter F Hendrick (Sandy)
By now, everyone in the OCR world has heard about Shirtgate and at least heard some version of the events that took place a little over a week ago at the Spartan Sprint in Atlanta Georgia. I thought it was best to get the details directly from the OCR athlete herself, Brenna Calvert, so I reached out to her and asked her to explain how the whole situation played out and as well how she felt then, and now, about it.
Brenna was very gracious and took a good amount of time to write her side of story, I have chosen not to edit any part of her story and ask that readers keep in mind she wrote this not long after the Spartan race and while preparing to leave for BattleFrog Central Florida:
Here are the facts from the Atlanta Spartan Sprint. I’ll try to be short and sweet. Went to the race and had my boyfriend, who is the Cincinnati race manager for BattleFrog, his son, my mom, brother, sister, sister-in-law, my 2 nieces, and nephew come spectate. We were all sporting our shirts A. because he’s employed by them, and B. because I am a active member on the field team and just recently earned my season pass for my work promoting the BattleFrog race series. Anyone that knows me and follows me on social media is aware that I am big advocate of OCR united and all race companies, as I have run Spartan, BattleFrog, Savage, Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, Merrell Down n Dirty, and will be running my first Atlas race later this year. Yes I might have a special place in my heart for BattleFrog, but they have rightfully earned that spot. Any ways, back to Saturday’s incident and race. I showed up to the race wearing my Spartan Trifecta Jacket, and Spartan hat, carrying a Spartan bag. Warmed up this way and was standing in the start corral with all this on still to stay warm pre-race. My running attire is minimal mind you, I don’t own Spartan running gear and always wear Athletics 8 compression ware and especially like to have my OCR4bifida sleeve on along with either a BattleFrog sleeve or my OCRWC sleeve on. Like to switch it up. So I do my thing and run the race, finish in 3rd place after a hard fought, awesome, sprint course there in Conyers. Finished a bloody mess from the ridiculously low barbed wire with my clothes and legs/back torn to shreds. I do have to give it to Spartan for the best Sprint I have run of theirs. Especially loved the fact that this race was my 2 year anniversary for running obstacle course races. Immediately after crossing the finish line, my family and I went on the hunt for the medical tent. I was in the tent getting cleaned up and being told I needed stitches in 2 different places for a good few minutes. From there, without even showering off I changed back in to my dry clothes which happened to be a matching BattleFrog shirt to what my family was wearing. We made our way to the kids course to watch my boyfriends 8 year old and my 4 year old niece run their races. There was no time for beer, food, or collecting my finisher shirt. I usually grab that on my way out of the venue unless its distributed right at the finish line. Next order up for business was the biggest team award ceremony. I am a member of the Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners (GORMR) and was so happy to see this well deserving team win the biggest team award. As the entire team was gathered in front of the DJ stage and accepting the award in front of the crowd, the DJ looked over to side stage and noticed my family, friends, and I standing there wearing our green shirts. Over the speaker he starts commenting about our attire….”OH NO!! Are those BattleFrog shirts?? What are y’all doing here?? I hope you’re not a part of this team.” At this time my family and I raise our arms and cheer and so do many other spectators and team members, as there are many BattleFrog supporters in attendance. Poor Delaine Anderson that is accepting the award is shaking her head in a joking manner that we are not a part of the team so that it doesn’t take away from them. I refrained from getting in the group picture as to not cause an issue. At this time the crowd and even my family just went along with it as it was a joke. We thought hey free advertising for BattleFrog, the best part was after the DJ made that announcement we had people coming up to us asking about BattleFrog. That being our purpose, to cross promote different race series to those that are in it for the sport and enjoyment. We accepted the comments as jokes, but also thought deep down he was serious since we’ve heard rumors of Spartan employees and volunteers picking on racers and guests sporting BattleFrog gear (not other race series) at prior events…..I say rumored because I have not experienced that, until this event. So that was one call out in front of everyone. Moving on the the elite award ceremony….seeing as how I was 3rd place female I was the first athlete announced. I step out from the crowd and shake the marines had and turn to pose with him for picture. Since I have previously made the podium I was aware that the next step was to take my place on the podium blocks. So I walk over and as soon as I lift my foot to step up Kevin, Spartan employee giving the awards, says “Whoa whoa! You can’t get up there in that shirt!” This is being announce over the microphone in front of all to hear and witness. I turn somewhat caught off guard to face the crowd and him announcing. He continues with saying “We don’t want that on our podium, it’s a rule. Technically you’re supposed to be wearing your finisher shirt.” I reply back politely that I haven’t had time to get my shirt yet and don’t normally and until the end. While his announcement is going on another Spartan volunteer/racer I believe is coming at me thrusting an orange hoodie that he removed from his own back saying here cover that with this…..I was just trying to politely oblige. At this point I am a bit irritated and don’t want to wear a long sleeve shirt. So I then set all my stuff down on the podium and say well hey since you want to make a big to do about this let me take my time and take this off in front of everyone and put on the finisher shirt that a friend from the crowd handed me in exchange for my green BattleFrog shirt. Now the crowd has stated to boo and express their disapproval of them forcing me to change. Some crowd members were stating just let her keep it on. So I change and take my place on the podium and smile politely and awkwardly. Nothing like being called out and ridiculed in front of all. We carry on with the awards and all athletes pose for pictures. Me being the only one in a Spartan finisher shirt mind you, even though its apparently a rule. Once off the podium and standing to the side I ask the gentleman that was trying to get me to put the orange hoodies on where this rule is stated because I have never heard such a thing. He replies well I don’t know where the rule is but Kevin had to tell you that and we’re trying to just make sure he does his job properly. I took this to mean that they believed it as a rule and that they needed to enforce. We then go back to the DJ stage to fill out a few forms. Once again I am approached by the gentleman saying hey remember me? I was the one yelling at you to change your shirt haha? and here I was thinking man your sitting in a pretty good position, better be careful. I asked so what….you’d take away my award. I basically perceived that as a threat of being DQ’d or penalized had I not removed my shirt. All of this has now ruined the whole podium experience to be honest. Put on display, threatened, and treated differently than all the rest. No longer feeling like a joke. I did not ask for any of the media blow back and now that it’s all said and done it ruined the whole experience not just the podium. I felt that it was handled poorly and in a rude manner. Had I been pulled aside and asked nicely, or had the “rule” been enforced to all athletes I wouldn’t have minded. I feel as though it was a direct issue with BattleFrog no matter what Spartans take on it was. Sure Kevin wasn’t the normal announcer and it’s being said he did this on his own accord I actually feel that this mentality from the staff comes from somewhere. It proved to me that the rumors are true about others getting picked on for BattleFrog gear. Had I known that the award for 3rd place was $100 I would have loved to have stood my ground and politely said no I will not change my shirt and see what was going to happen. This left a very sour taste in my mouth about Spartan races and has made me rethink what races I will be competing in sadly. After all said and done, and all the hype and blow back that I did not want or ask for I feel it changed the whole thing for me. Could have been handled differently and better for sure. Sorry so long winded. I hope I answered your questions and was able to explain the events in detail. I am not a BattleFrog team member, I am sponsored by Juice Plus with the Superfood Edge, and I am all about the sport and all race companies. With this article I just want it to be known that Spartan via its employees made a big mistake and have not done anything to make it better in my eyes or the OCR communities. I did not intend to insult anyone or cause any drama. Had it been handled differently I would not have an issue. I get the idea behind it I guess, but don’t agree nor do I appreciate what Spartan is trying to do by acting as if they’re the only race company out there.
I want to thank Brenna for her side of the incident, and we all hope your injuries heal quickly.
I wondered how other OCR companies would handle this scenario, so I reached out to several, for an official comment and this is what each had to say:
- Brian Carney from Bone Frog Challenge stated “No not in a million years would we ask one of our podium finishers to change the shirt they are wearing.”
- Brian Townsend from Dead End Race stated “Absolutely not. They can wear what they want. If I were to shoot a promo-shot image after., then maybe i would have them switch but definitely no restrictions. Companies pay the racers to wear their colors. Its part of their income and compensation.”
- Tara Murphy Landers from Atlas Race stated “Podium finishers and all those who cross the Finish Line are all welcome to #AtlasRace anytime, shirt or no shirt.”
- Sam Abbitt from Savage Race stated “We will give them the option to get a free replacement shirt, but will not force anyone to change. If they earned the podium, they earned it. However, we probably won’t actively promote or publish images with competitor brands on them.“
- Michael Donnelly from BattleFrog Series stated “We do not have any rules or regulations against any other companies apparel at our event. We support the entire industry and encourage everyone to come out and show their colors whatever they might be. While maintaining “class” and “respect” for others.”
- Adrian Bijanada from OCR World Championships stated “I can completely understand where a race organization taking those steps is coming from. after all, they’ve put a lot of effort and resources into building their brand. But, I think it’s important to consider the athlete’s perspective in all this. They plunked down cash for entry and worked pretty darn hard to reach that podium, so it’s their moment first and foremost. To tamper with that wouldn’t feel right to me.“
It appears the only OCR that has ever had a problem with podium finishers wearing another OCR’s shirts is Spartan at this specific Atlanta race and based on a statement released by Tom McCormack VP, Product Management for Spartan Race HQ it appears this was not something that HQ was aware was happening and it’s not a standard practice of how Spartan would typically handle the podium. Per Tom, it appears to have been a misunderstanding by the Spartan staff in Atlanta and its being looked in to. Please note: I reached out to Spartan for an official statement but did not receive a response.
I personally want to stay impartial regarding this, but I will say most of the time with scenarios like this, no news is good news. Spartan is the biggest OCR on the block and have nothing to fear from any of the others, so unfortunately this incident has ended up being more of a social media black eye then anything else.
This story received a lot of news via social media and that could be a good thing so it doesn’t happen again in the future, but it also clearly was an uncomfortable incident for Brenna and that is the part that is very unfortunate. Its never a good thing when one of the pioneers of a young sport is made to feel uncomfortable and I can only hope, this was the first and last time this happens.
With all this said, I don’t expect Spartan or any of the other major OCR’s to have something like this happen again so I think its best we close the book on this story and all just be thankful to Brenna for having to be the athlete that was put through a lot of unneeded drama.
Who is Walter? Walter is a 45 year old OCR and trail running athlete that is insanely focused to improve every day and at every event he participates in.