Andrew Messick is the CEO of the Ironman. We had a wide-ranging conversation on a variety of topics. One of which was his rationale behind holding firm on not supporting 50 pro women to Kona. Here are few highlights from our conversation on this topic, in which we agreed to disagree:
Bob Babbitt: Andrew, in tennis the male professionals would get more money than the female professionals. Venus Williams stepped up and demanded equal prize money. Now in tennis, it could be argued that the men’s fields are deeper and that the men play the best of five sets while the women play the best of three sets. But, at the end of the day, the right thing to do was to offer equal prize money for men and women. That being said, why not 50 women to Kona?
Andrew Messick: I don’ think the tennis analogy is a good one. We’ve always had equal prize money for men and women in Ironman. I understand the 50 Women to Kona argument and I know and respect a number of the people who have been fiercely advocating that. We don’t think it’s the right thing to do for a couple of reasons. Right now being a female professional triathlete is a better deal than being a male professional triathlete. The female pros in our sport make more money than the male pros. It might be the only sport in the world where women pros make more money than the male pros. We have equal prize money for men and women and half as many women to spread it across. Twice as many pro men…half as many pro women…same dollars.
Andrew Messick: For Kona qualifying, 23% of the eligible female professionals and 16% of the eligible professional men qualify for Kona. Already, we believe the deck is stacked towards women today. By arbitrarily putting an equal number of women and men on the start line, what you are essentially saying is that there should have to be a different and lower standard of performance and standard of excellence for women than for men. We’re going to expect less from our female professionals than from our male professionals. We’re going to make it easier for them and fundamentally we don’t think that’s right. We believe that there should be a single standard of excellence that should govern Kona.
Listen to our interview, and then let me know: what do you think of the points Andrew Messick makes?