A Call for “Respectful and Productive Discourse”

Statement of Opinion:

It is frustrating to see the tension between respected athlete advocates Dwight Phillips, Lauren Fleshman, Nick Symmonds, Steve Magness, and Patrick Rizzo on social media. I am not frustrated by disagreements, but by the tone and its possible impact on several important battles for justice within our sport– which are reflective of bigger issues within our society.

Let’s remember, it’s okay to disagree with friends or enemies, as long as the discourse is respectful and productive. We all have the right to disagree in principle and approach. But let’s make sure we acknowledge and respect our imperfect allies and prospective allies in the pursuit of athlete rights, racial equality, and other noble “causes” (including gender equality). As the great Dr. Martin Luther King said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

I am sometimes hesitant to use the word injustice to describe some of the athlete rights issues, and to some extent race issues in our sport. But the reality is there are injustices in these areas within our sport. But we should also keep in mind other more severe injustices that are in our world today. We shouldn’t deny the injustices we face, but we also shouldn’t deny the injustices faced by others around our sport and around our world.

As an advocate for athlete rights, racial equality, and other justices, I know I am not perfect in my position, support, or approach. But my commitments, efforts and intents are clear. Let’s acknowledge our personal and collective strengths and weaknesses. Let’s identify ways to improve, without alienating our current or prospective allies. Let’s not allow the powers that be “divide and conquer” us.

It is my firm belief that an individual or group that recognizes the existence of athlete rights issues and other injustices in our sport can also truly recognize the race issues that exist in our sport and society. If the individual or group doesn’t already recognize it, let us help them recognize it.

In terms of fighting for our rights and varying levels of injustices in our sport, let’s also respect the different personalities and approaches. Aggressive and assertive approaches are sometimes necessary, but l do think it is important to resolve all matters, respectfully. We need each and every approach. Personally, I would be more critical of the athletes that aren’t advocating for their rights at all. But, I respect their position and approach also. I disagree, but I respect.

Let our differences in perspectives help us create a stronger collective and coalition for a better sport and society, not a fractured one. I’m happy to be a part of this discourse and be a part of finding solutions to these concerns. Hopefully, this respectful statement of my opinions is a step in the right direction.

With Hope & Respect,


Merhawi Keflezighi is a notable athlete manager and sports agent, and serves as a volunteer board director for AthleteBiz

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