Dirty Kanza Founder Jim Cummins shared a statement with Road Bike Action Magazine following his exit from parent company Life Time Fitness Saturday.
Cummins and Life Time came to a "mutual agreement" to end his employment with the company for “inappropriate and insensitive” comments he made on his personal Facebook page Friday. Cummins founded the Dirty Kanza with assistance from fellow cycling enthusiast Joel Dyke in 2006, and ran the race until 2018. He sold the DK to Life Time in 2018 and continued to oversee the race as the Chief Gravel Officer.
His statement in its entirety can be read below:
“I have dedicated the past fifteen years of my life to serving the cycling community. A strong community is a diverse community… made up of people from all walks of life, from all races, all religions, and holding a wide variety of views. I support them all.
A recent social media post of mine had one singular purpose… to show support for our men and women in blue. Unfortunately, I chose my words poorly. As a result, my words caused division and pain. For that I am deeply sorry.
In light of this, I have agreed with the fine people at Life Time that the only proper course of action is for me to end my association with the company and with their events. I wish Life Time, and the entire cycling community well. And hope that, some day, I can help to heal the wounds that I have caused.
Most Sincerely and Regretfully,
On Friday, Cummins made a post to his personal Facebook page asking his followers to watch a video in which two police officers attempt to apprehend Daniel Clary, a black man who shot an officer during a 2018 arrest in Pennsylvania. Clary was later convicted and sentenced to 110 years in prison. The officer survived.
“Watch the ENTIRE video,” Cummins said in the post. “Then if you still believe the Cop who shot Rayshard Brooks, after he stole the officer’s taser and then used it against him, was not justified in shooting Mr. Brooks... then unfriend me now.”
Brooks, a 27-year-old black man from Atlanta, was killed June 12 after he tried to flee from two white police officers after he fell asleep inside his car outside a Wendy’s restaurant. He was reportedly inebriated and took a taser from one of the officers. Brooks then fired the taser in the direction of one of the officers, but did not make contact.
Brooks was shot in the back as he tried to run from the scene. His death has been ruled a homicide.
Life Time responds
Kimo Seymour, president of Life Time’s events and media division, confirmed that Cummins had been terminated and told The Emporia Gazette Sunday morning that it was a “mutual decision to part ways.”
“We wish nothing but for the best for Jim,” Seymour said. “He was very understanding and it was a mutual decision to part ways.”
Seymour said he did not believe Life Time had a specific policy regarding employees activities on personal social media pages. However, the company wanted to “uphold certain principles and values.”
“We are careful about how to manage these situations and if an employee expresses a value that we think doesn’t align with our principles and values,” he said. “We think this event does stand for diversity and inclusion. ... We believe we need to take more positive action toward diversity. Cycling in general needs that.”
Seymour said he believes the DK can be a leading event in that area. In recent years, DK Marketing Manager Kristi Mohn, along with Operations Manager LeLan Dains and Athlete Services Manager Treva Worrel, has lead an effort to bring in more women to the race. The lottery for the 2020 race was the largest on record, Seymour said.
“We would love to be leaders in that area,” he said. “We have a phenomenal team there in Emporia with LeLan, Kristi and Treva. Our company has been fairly successful in getting involved in events that support the community. That’s one of the unique things with Emporia and the Dirty Kanza — it’s just such an amazing community event. We have an amazing team that comes together. We hope the event will continue to thrive.”
Life Time issued another statement on its social media Sunday evening regarding Cummins’ termination.
“As most of you know by now, we made the difficult decision yesterday to mutually part ways with the founder of Dirty Kanza,” they wrote. “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.”
Seymour said part of growing the DK and moving forward is looking again at a possible name change — some have contended that the name Dirty Kanza can be construed as a racial slur against Native Americans meaning “dirty Indian” — though no decisions on that front would be made immediately.
The possible name change was also addressed in Sunday’s statement.
“In addition, we have been working throughout this year on options for a name change,” Life Time wrote. “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 do this 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. As plans are formalized, expect to hear more from us. We are open to hearing your ideas and encourage you to share them with us [firstname.lastname@example.org].
Change is never easy but it is necessary, now more than ever, 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 and deep gratitude from your Dirty Kanza / Life Time Team,
LeLan Dains, Kristi Mohn, Michelle Duffy, Treva Worrel and Kimo Seymour.”
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include that Cummins was not "terminated" but rather, the decision for him to leave Life Time Fitness was mutual.