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Sanya Richards-Ross wants Olympic athletes paid

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

There won't be many times when a track star like Sanya Richards-Ross has a wider audience than the week before the Olympics. So maybe it's not that big a surprise -- as hot-button an issue as it might be -- that Richards-Ross took to her Twitter account Friday to ask why U.S. Olympic athletes like herself aren't compensated:

That wasn't the only topic on the 400-meter gold medal favorite's mind, either, as she also asked for looser regulations involving the displaying of sponsorship logos on track uniforms:

Richards-Ross's opinion -- and perhaps the timing of its delivery -- isn't one that's likely to earn her much sympathy among casual Olympic fans, as Dwyane Wade discovered when he proposed that he and his fellow NBA Olympians should be compensated. Though Richards-Ross clearly isn't in Wade's tax bracket, much of the response on Twitter to her comments was similarly negative.

But much of the response was positive, too. Mark Cuban retweeted several of her comments to his followers. U.S. Olympic swimmer Ricky Berens endorsed the use of sponsorship logos for swimmers as well. Several other athletes have of course lodged many of the same complaints, most notably U.S. 800-meter champion Nick Symmonds, whose frustration with sponsorship and logo regulation led him to create the Facebook page "I'm tired of USATF and IAAF crippling our sport." (Not to mention get his own sponsored temporary tattoo, which he's forced to cover during major races.)

It's hard to blame Richards-Ross for feeling aggrieved when U.S. Olympic athletes are paid nothing at all for their Olympic appearances while the top U.S. Olympic Committee official earned better than $900,000 in compensation in 2011, one of just 83 USOC employees to make six figures. And that's before discussing the millions in television rights, corporate sponsorships, etc. that the athletes won't directly see a dime from. When offering all 530 members of the 2012 Olympic roster a one-time $10,000 bonus would still only cost the USOC 59 percent of the organization's top salary, it's safe to assume there's going to be some grumbling.

That doesn't mean the USOC should automatically pony up, though; there's the little matter of the USOC providing many sports' only training facilities and coaches, organizing and holding events, and performing many other essential tasks for which the athletes don't reimburse the USOC, either. As Richards-Ross said as part of her Twitter dialogue -- one in which she admirably passed along the viewpoint of a few dissenters -- the point is to make the discussion one that's actually, seriously being discussed.

Wherever that discussion led, that much, it seems, would be constructive.

 
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