Why I'm Not Racing Harlem Skyscraper This Sunday
By Chanel Zeisel
After pledging equal pay for the men and women's elite fields in 2016, promoter Rich Cox has cut the women's prize purse in half, calling the women's field a "small embarrassment."
I raced the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic in 2016 and greatly enjoyed the historic event, which has run for over 40 years with the support of both corporate and community sponsors.
However, I will not be racing Harlem Skyscraper this year because the promoter Richard Cox has decided to renege on his 2016 commitment to equal prize pay for the men and women's elite fields.
Richard's official statement on Facebook reads:
"Thanks to all - who've reached out to me regarding "Pay/Distance" equality for the 2017 event.
As some of you remember, the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic is a strong supporter of this premise and in 2016 we promoted the event as such.
Unfortunately--after receiving dozens of inquires from female cyclists throughout the northeast and abroad, less than 23 showed up on the starting line that day--a small embarrassment to my sponsors/supporters. In 2017 we had no choice but to rescind the prize/distance equality.
However (and I've kept all of my promises to date); If 30 or more female cyclist (Pro/1/2) register for the 2017 event, I will return the equal prize/distance pact in 2018."
It is hypocritical of Richard to claim to support gender equality in 2016, and then turn around and punish women for an existing underrepresentation in the sport.
It's no secret that female participants represent a minority in every facet of cycling, not just racing. From recreational riders and commuters to weekend warriors, there are huge growth opportunities for our sport - provided we support and encourage female participation equitably.
It is time we insist that in 2017, payout equity in racing isn't a conditional “premise” that needs to be earned by women through participation, as Richard suggests, but a right that reflects that women are allocating the same resources towards training and racing and deserve to reap the same rewards.
Prize money can go a long way towards offsetting the significant costs of racing at an elite amateur level - and bike equipment doesn’t cost 50% less for women.
Furthermore, the argument that equality hinges on economic convenience - that financial pressure can justify denying basic rights - is absurd and has morally abhorrent consequences. If we could ditch our commitment to treating our fellow human beings with equality whenever it was economically convenient to do so, the results would be horrifying. There is no economic justification for discrimination.
It takes a lot to put on an event of this size year after year, and it's important for promoters to manage their funds carefully. However, cutting prize purses on the basis of gender is not an acceptable way to do this.
Richard Cox needs to do the right thing and equalize the prize purses now.
If not, I am asking the Harlem Skyscraper sponsors, community partners, and above all, my fellow racers male and female, to ask themselves why they are choosing to support an event where the promoter does not believe that women deserve to be treated equally.
Together, it's time to demand that the events we participate in uphold and reflect our personal principles.