Over the weekend, the founder and director of arguably the world's premier long distance gravel event Jim Cummins shared a post on Facebook, in which he described the shooting of Rayshard Brooks by police in Atlanta as "justified". Brooks was shot dead on Friday as he fled officers after seizing a taser gun. The mayor of Atlanta and a number of politicians have described the use of lethal force as not justified, and it's sparked another wave of anti-racism protests.
Shortly after Cummins' aired his views, Life Time, the company behind the Dirty Kanza, "mutually parted ways" with its founder, and have released a new more detailed statement on social media clarifying their decision. One part says: "Our cycling community is very diverse, and it’s one of the key factors that make us so unique and strong. At the same time, we stand by our decision as a company and by our vision and values that aim to ensure that everyone is accepted and supported. Those visions and values do not have a place for racism, prejudice or discrimination.
"We are committed to taking action to ensure these values are upheld and continue to be centred in our work both as a brand and as an event. Most of all, we are committed to listening, learning and continuing to grow."
Life Time also says they have launched a 'Diversity and Inclusion Council' to 'put intentional focus' on changes they want to make to their company, clubs and events.
The team have received much praise for their decision - while others have accused them of stifling Mr Cummins' 'freedom of speech' - but many are also calling for the event to change its name, because it's claimed that the phrase 'Dirty Kanza' is actually a racial slur against Native Americans. The even has resisted calls to change its name in the past, but while the first statement on Cummins' departure made no mention, this latest statement has addressed concerns. Dirty Kanza say:
"In addition, we have been working throughout this year on options for a name change. Our event name wasn’t created with ill-intent, and while we have worked with and received support from the Kaw Nation, we also understand that our name should not cause hurt. This process does take time, and we want to make this change in the correct manner. Please know that we will share progress as we work through this process."
The Dirty Kanza is still set to going ahead this year despite the pandemic, with the dates re-scheduled for 10th-13th September.