Brands Fire Sponsored Climbers for Bad Behaviour
It’s 2018 and the internet has become one of the most important tools for sharing information, communicating with family and for speaking out.
So when a top American climber was recently bullied through an Instagram account, she spoke out and her followers, friends and climbing companies listened.
After two days of social media banter in support of every side, with some hateful and angry comments (because internet), a climbing sponsor of the accused dropped them from the team.
Good morning everyone, Sasha is with family in the hospital right now saying goodbye to her Grandmother. She’ll be back on social media in the next couple of days but in the meantime she’s asked me as her manager to issue a statement on her behalf. First of all she wants to thank everyone for their support of her decision to speak out about bullying. The situation is unfortunate and it’s important that you all understand that it wasn’t just one post or one snarky meme, this was an ongoing problem over several years that affected Sasha as well as several other female athletes. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to settle this privately but the attacks kept coming. Sasha made a difficult and brave decision to speak out publicly knowing full well that she’d be subject to backlash and victim shaming. This brought accountability and voice to an issue that was not otherwise stopping. Sasha is in touch with Joe and has accepted his apology. She also spoke to Black Diamond and encouraged them not to drop Joe as an athlete. Their decision to do so was not desired, but is in line with the ethics and morality clauses in all professional athlete contracts so their actions have to be respected. On a personal level guys, this world is changing for the better thanks to people like Sasha who are brave enough to take a stand against bullying. It sucks that it’s resulted in a respected athlete learning some hard lessons, but hopefully this is something the entire community can benefit from eventually. We’re in touch with Joe and will assist where possible to mitigate further damage. On a final but equally important note, Sasha has been in touch with the woman that was used to poke fun of. Her name is Sarah and you can go to her Instagram at Her and Sasha agree that body shaming is not okay and we all need to accept who we are and to speak up for ourselves and others. @sarahsapora
This comes a few months after another big company dropped a leading ice/mixed climber for abuse allegations.
What determines bad behaviour (and the term ‘bad behaviour’ is a bit of a red herring, but you get it) from a climber?
There’s a lot of things on the list, but bullying and abuse are right at the top. And it’s good that companies listen, act and adjust their teams accordingly.
Visit RiseAgainstBullying.com for more information on online bullying.
This isn’t new to 2018.
Many brands and sponsors have dropped athletes from their teams in the past.
In 2007, Dean Potter and Steph Davis were let go from Patagonia for some frowned-upon climbing-related things.
Rob Bon Durant, vice president of marketing and communications for Patagonia, said, “Dean and Steph will not remain ambassadors,” he said, calling their departure part of a “natural cycle.”
In 2014, Potter was again at the centre of a public let-go, but this time from Clif Bar. Joining Potter was Timmy O’Neill, Steph Davis, Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold.
They were all let go because Clif Bar decided it didn’t want to sponsor solo climbers and BASE jumpers.
“It was as if somebody who had a lot of influence for the first time paid attention to their marketing campaign,” said Jimmy Chin.
“It’s like: We’ve been sponsoring these prominent athletes for years, we have a climber on our logo and we just discovered they’re doing something we aren’t comfortable sanctioning?”
Climbing brands have been sponsoring dangerous trips for as long as people have been climbing. Eddie Bauer and Rainier Beer sponsored the first American Everest expedition in 1963.
Clubs and brands sponsor expeditions every year and if there’s behaviour that doesn’t align with their core values leading up to the trip, they’ll pull the funding.
There are many other climbers who’ve been fired from companies. And while it’s difficult to see why a company would fire a rock climber for rock climbing, it’s easy to understand why they would let an athlete go for bullying.
Whether you’re a sponsored climber or not, the climbing community should be a supportive and welcoming space so be nice and help each other out.