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Dirty Kanza organisers consider name change

Past winner Alison Tetrick rode alone for much of day, and almost all of it as second female on the gravel.
Past Dirty Kanza winner Alison Tetrick rode alone for much of day in 2019 (Image credit: Wil Matthews)

The organisers of the Dirty Kanza gravel race have announced that they are considering a name change for the event.

The announcement follows the dismissal of race founder Jim Cummins from the organisation over a social media post in which he claimed the shooting of Rayshard Brooks by police in Atlanta last week was "justified." 

In a statement, race organiser Life Time expressed regret for "the hurt and emotional distress the events of the last few days have caused" and said that they had launched a 'Diversity and Inclusion Council.'

"We have been working throughout this year on options for a name change," read an Instagram post by the race organisers. 

"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.

"Actions speak louder than words, and we are committed to putting in the continual work to establish long-term, sustainable changes."

Should it happen, it wouldn't be the first time a gravel race has changed names due to racial insensitivity, with the Land Run 100 renamed to The Mid South for 2020. 

The 'land run' name was linked to the forced removal and genocide of Native Americans by the US government in the 1800s.

Life Time's move to potentially change the name of Dirty Kanza comes two months after organisers dismissed a petition from website Cyclista Zine calling for the name change.

In the petition, Cyclista Zine said that the name Dirty Kanza was a racial epithet that affected the Kaw Nation indigenous tribe based in Oklahoma and Kansas. The word Kanza is associated with the tribe.

"To preface Kanza people with 'Dirty' shows a disconnect of the history of place, violence, and colonization that has been justified with terms like "dirty" that is connected to America's Legacy of anti-Indigenous violence," read the petition.

In response, Life Time issued an open letter signed by Cummins and Lynn Williams, chairwoman of Kaw Nation, which stated that the name was intended to reflect the off-road nature of the race as well as its location in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

"Life Time and the Kaw Nation are proud of our relationship, which is built upon mutual respect, dignity, and integrity," read the letter, which added that Life Time and Kaw Nation representatives met in February.

"During this meeting, this group also discussed the characteristics shared by event participants, and what it takes to compete in an ultra-distance gravel road challenge… Discipline, Determination, Courage, Perseverance. It was agreed that these same attributes are shared by members of the Kaw Nation.

 "Life Time and the Kaw Nation are proud to stand alongside one another as Dirty Kanza pursues its mission to provide life-enriching experiences to event participants and to build community. Together, we endeavor to exemplify respect for one another and all people, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. We hope everyone will join us in this effort."

In their latest statement, the race organisers did not commit to a name change or set out a timetable for the action, but did say that the event is committed to leading diversity within the cycling community, though there is still work to do.

"Change is never easy but it is necessary as we continue to grow and spread the joys of gravel with an even broader community. As the community of gravel grows more inclusive and diverse, it will become even more remarkable."

As most of you know by now, we made the difficult decision yesterday to mutually part ways with the founder of Dirty Kanza. On behalf of all of us and our organization, we are truly sorry for the hurt and emotional distress the events of the last few days have caused. 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 centered in our work both as a brand and as an event. Most of all, we are committed to listening, learning and continuing to grow. As an initial step, in the last few weeks, Life Time has launched a Diversity and Inclusion Council. This council will allow us to act and put intentional focus on changes we need to make internally so our company, clubs and events are a place for everyone. 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. Actions speak louder than words, and we are committed to putting in the continual work to establish long-term, sustainable changes. As a leader in gravel cycling, we are also committed to being a leader in diversity within the cycling community. We acknowledge we have work to do in this regard. We are open to hearing your ideas and encourage you to share them with us. Change is never easy but it is necessary as we continue to grow and spread the joys of gravel with an even broader community. As the community of gravel grows more inclusive and diverse, it will become even more remarkable. With respect & gratitude from your DK / Life Time Team, LeLan, Kristi, Michelle, Treva and Kimo Dirty Kanza

A photo posted by @dirtykanza on Jun 21, 2020 at 5:40pm PDT