Please permit me to compliment SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and John Underwood on the story of Adidas and Puma (No Goody Two-Shoes, March 10). It was superbly researched, well-documented and beautifully presented.
If I may, I would like to make one point quite clear: my resignation from Adidas had nothing whatsoever to do with my attitude toward the firm. I hold Adidas and the Adi Dassler family in the highest esteem, and our relationship remains unchanged. It was regrettable that they were drawn into a deplorable situation not of their own making. For my part, however, the personal service given to the athletes (many had special shoes made to necessary requirements, while others simply wanted something different) and the continuing efforts to improve the shoes technically—areas in which I devoted a great deal of time—no longer mattered to the majority. Money was the only thing that did matter, and, if this wasn't bad enough, the bargaining and the playing of one firm against the other made a highly distasteful situation repugnant to me.
The sole blame must be laid squarely on the IAAF, which could have put a stop to this in Budapest two years before Mexico City. It was at the IAAF Congress there, following the European championships, that East German officials laid $600 on the table in front of the Marquess of Exeter, president of the IAAF. This was the money paid to J�rgen Haase ($500) and J�rgen May ($100) by Puma. The body chose to sweep the affair under the carpet, donated the money to the International Red Cross and hoped that by ignoring it the matter would dissipate. The IAAF rejected a meeting requested by Adidas in Mexico before the Games, and since then Adrian Paulen, president of the European Committee of the IAAF, has refused to see Horst Dassler, who traveled especially to Amsterdam to meet with him.
The IAAF is abdicating its responsibility, and it must agree to meet with the shoe manufacturers to resolve the question. An all-white neutral shoe will only create problems for those who least deserve them: the athletes.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
As U.S. distributor for Japanese Tiger track shoes, we consider ourselves the third and newest force in the U.S. track-shoe market. Our own experience went like this: we enjoyed our most prestigious moments just prior to the Mexico Olympics. Over 50% of the distance men were training in our shoes at South Lake Tahoe, and many top athletes were wearing our spike shoes in meets. But by Mexico City the number had dropped sharply.
We were not surprised, as everyone close to track and field was aware of the situation as you described it, and we were certainly not in a position to compete with $100,000 in payoffs. Unfortunately, the AAU and IAAF have chosen to "look the other way." In our eyes this amounts to tacit approval, and the controversy rages around our company whether to swallow our ethics and compete (albeit on a scale smaller than $100,000), or to continue to let the competition claim "85% of the medals."
If your story on the scandal forces U.S. officials to rethink their nonpolicy on track and field payoffs, you will have done a great service not only to smaller track-shoe distributors, such as we are, who have difficulty competing with payoffs of $100,000, but also to the much-loved sport of track and field, which has grown tainted from the dirty business of payoffs, and to the high school trackmen across the country who must ultimately pay the $100,000 in higher shoe prices.
PHILIP H. KNIGHT
Blue Ribbon Sports
My background in track is that of a so-so high school sprinter who earned a varsity letter and a deep-rooted love for this sport. At present I am a Marist Brother teaching and coaching freshman track at St. Mary's High School in Manhasset, N.Y. and trying to develop runners with a true dedication to this sport. Your article has damaged the great dignity which I felt has surrounded track and field competition.
To me, track is the one sport that can develop an awkward, seemingly unathletic boy into a person with a fine sense of accomplishment, with confidence in himself and his athletic skill. It has always been a sport where the reward was not what you could get out of it, but what dimension it could add to your life, in helping the whole man to emerge.
But your article has shown that people whom I have held up as examples to emulate are involved in a very messy, disgusting practice. It has shown that track is getting to be a business, where athletic competition and talent are bartered away for a price, and a grand spectacle like the Olympics has become merely a backdrop for vendors hawking their wares and then expressing horror at the Frankenstein's monster they have created.
BROTHER JOSEPH F. OLIVET F.M.S.