OBRA takes disciplinary action against racer who competed with swastikas on jersey

Posted by on November 11th, 2021 at 12:28 pm

The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA), a statewide nonprofit that sanctions bicycle races, took disciplinary action Wednesday against a rider who competed at a cyclocross event on Sunday at Rainier High School.

According reports from sources who’ve reached out to BikePortland, a rider in the Category 2/3 field of the Cyclocross Crusade event wore a shirt and hat emblazoned with messages related to conspiracy theories about the vaccine, government overreach, the Holocaust, and so on. Here’s an image taken from the race that clearly shows the rider and jersey in question (that was posted to Twitter by @heyzell).

“At this race, someone was allowed to race while displaying two hand drawn swastikas on the back of their shirt, as well as other forms of false information,” the poster wrote. “@oregonbikeracing claims that they want to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all cyclists, especially those of historically marginalized communities. These actions do not line up with these proposed values.”

Another reader who emailed us about this today said, “Our racing community has always been a cocoon and safe place we take for granted.”

One person who contacted us said they saw the shirt. “He’s been at a few [Cylcocross] Crusade races with the same weird outfits that say nonsense about vaccines and QAnon and stuff.” We’ve also heard that the same rider wore a shirt that said “Fire Fauci” at the Cyclocross Crusade race two weekends ago in Cascade Locks.

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The rider (whose name I’m not going to share here at this time) is a long-time OBRA member and racer with results going back as far as 2001.

Yesterday, OBRA Executive Director Chuck Kenlan issued a statement saying the group had taken disciplinary action. Here’s that statement:

“I am writing to you this evening to discuss an incident that took place at an OBRA race last weekend. An OBRA member and racer drew a symbol of hate on the shirt worn during the race. Although this came to us without first-hand knowledge or evidence, we finally got confirmation of it this morning. I want to thank all of the OBRA community that alerted us to this and for the people that captured photos that confirmed the action. The race organizers and officials try their best but can’t always spot things like this. This action was a clear violation of OBRA’s Code of Conduct and disciplinary action was taken:

OBRA, the Cyclocross Crusade, and all of our race promoters strongly believe that our events must be places where every person feels safe and accepted. OBRA does not stand with Nazis, or other hate groups and will not tolerate hate speech or symbols at our events.

OBRA is not perfect. The organization is made up of a dedicated volunteer board of directors and a hard-working, part-time staff. We are also made up of you, our community that expects the best of us. OBRA allows you to have a say in how we are governed by electing our board of directors and developing rules to help govern racing and the administration of the organization. We are constantly striving to be better and create an inclusive environment where every person that wants to race a bike feels safe and accepted.”

This isn’t the first time Crusade officials have gotten into hot water for a hate symbol. In 2017 they briefly released, and then retracted, a new logo that some people found offensive because it looked too much like a Celtic cross that is a popular symbol for white supremacy groups.

It’s also worth noting that the organizers behind the popular cyclocross race series have worked to de-emphasize the “cross” and “crusade” aspects of their brand, given the religious connotations of both. They’ve altered their logo to make it look less like a religious cross and have changed the official name of the series from Cross Crusade to Cyclocross Crusade.

I’ve asked Kenlan for more details on the action taken and will update this post when/if we hear back.


CORRECTION, 11/12 at 9:40 am: The initial version of this story said the rider wrote “Kill Fauci” on his shirt. We’ve been given new evidence that confirms the shirt said, “Fire Fauci”. I regret the error.

UPDATE, 1:30 pm: Kenlan says, “At this point we are keeping this internal. We are working with the board, staff and DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] committee to come to a resolution around this very serious violation of the OBRA Code of Conduct.”

UPDATE, 3:05 pm: Rick Potestio from the Cyclocross Crusade says they have sent the rider a letter, “informing him that he is in violation of our Code of Conduct and is banned from further participation in the race series. He is also banned from the two remaining venues: the Portland International Raceway and Barton Park.”

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Bjorn
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Bjorn

Saw an update on the OBRA forums, the initial short suspension was apparently the most that the Executive Director could do without involving the board. They have now convened an emergency board meeting, the outcome of which is a suspension for the offending rider for the 2022 season and a clear communication that there will be zero tolerance for any further code of conduct violations from this person the penalty at that point being a lifetime ban. I am glad to see that they seem to be taking it seriously.

Joe Horton
Guest
Joe Horton

Hi Bjorn, it’s Joe from Stumptown Cycling. Thanks for the note and update. Hope all is well.

Pedaling in PDX
Guest
Pedaling in PDX

Looking at the image captured by @bolognamologna I’m confused as to how this person’s attire was not put under more scrutiny, even more so with the known call for violence seen at a previous event, and not called out by surrounding participants. I understand races can be chaotic, but this is a teachable moment for everyone in attendance or with plans to attend future events. This person probably wanted to make a scene, and was likely primed for confrontation, but that is no excuse to turn a blind eye.

“Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

Adam
Guest
Adam

People are allowed to express their beliefs. I have seen people at races loudly (visually loud) express many different points of view, both right and left. This is fine, expression is good. However, once it gets attacking or aggressive it is too far and time to step in. I think OBRA did a good job handling this.

Though, I personally prefer it if politics and cycling are kept well separated. I just want to race my bike.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Might we assume that NORBA receives no government funding whatsoever and it isn’t governed by the US Constitution and the first amendment? Even hate speech (and thus symbols on jerseys) is legal in this country.

squareman
Subscriber

The First Amendment limits the authority that any government entity has over censoring the speech of its citizens – full stop. It applies to nobody else.

It does not limit anyone else’s ability to react to that speech, nor does it limit private organizations, employers, or clubs (such as OBRA) to create rules around the limits of free speech at their events or activities. The Amendment was meant to prevent tyrannous censorship of any criticism of the government.

If OBRA wants to limit what speech is allowed at their events, they are within their rights to do so. Why does this need to be explained to adults who should have taken civics classes when they were children?

matt savage
Guest
matt savage

Norba hasn’t existed for two decades…

Mr. Scrooge
Guest
Mr. Scrooge

Not only is hate speech protected (not threats though), but it is one of the main types of speech protected by the Constitution. There is no need to protect speech that everyone agrees with.

This story is ironic. In Newberg schools we have 1/2 the people upset that they can’t display their favorite political symbols, and in this story, at a school in Rainier, we have that same 1/2 of the people upset that someone did display their favorite political symbols.

JG
Subscriber
JG

“Favorite political symbols” is a telling way for you to describe swastikas. Is that all you think they are? And you think only “1/2 the people” feel that displaying swastikas is out of line?

Are you the racer from this story?

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

It wasn’t all that long ago that symbols for marijuana and gay pride were banned in schools and other public venues. I still meet (probably “conservative”) people who feel threatened by such symbols, a bit like statues of dead white nasty slave owners like Lee, Jefferson, and Washington feel threatening to African-Americans (and many others).

Jay Dedd
Guest
Jay Dedd

One difference is that racism is (at least ostensibly and in concept) out of bounds per the nation’s founding documents. Those other things are out of bounds in some religions’ holy books. Lots of people don’t seem to grasp the difference between the founding documents and the holy books.

Austin
Guest
Austin

A pride flag isn’t political.
Neither is a BLM flag.

Peter
Guest
Peter

I saw several instagram stories from people hollering at the individual to get out of there with the hate speech and saying that they (the individual) wasn’t welcome there. I’m not sure what else you hope they do?

Pedaling in PDX
Guest
Pedaling in PDX

I have not seen those, only the image from bologna and this. Thanks for sharing, that’s quite reassuring.

Mr. Scrooge
Guest
Mr. Scrooge

They should be careful doing that. It is harassment, and could easily rise to be assault if they make threats.

JG
Subscriber
JG

Thank you for protecting Mr. Swastika. Very brave.

Jeff Chochon
Guest
Jeff Chochon

Thanks OBRA for doing as you say.

Tony Thayer-Osborne
Guest
Tony Thayer-Osborne

Lining up behind this guy suuuuucked. I’m glad it won’t be something I have to think about for the last couple of crusade races this series but maybe it should have happened sooner.

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

You are way off base here David. Showing up to a bike race with a swastika is vile and should not be tolerated. This person was a participant in a private event. They must follow the rules laid out by the organizers. If the OBRA rules are insufficiently clear on the hate speech and display of symbols of hate, they should be changed immediately.

You should acquaint yourself with what the right to free speech does protect and what it does not.

Zack
Guest
Zack

Curious how OBRA’s code of conduct applies to a race series named after the violent historical event where white Europeans waged a centuries-long holy war against Muslims in God’s name? I wonder how welcome Muslim participants feel at an event with such a name?

rain panther
Guest
rain panther

Good point, Zack. I have wondered that very same thing.

Jay Dedd
Guest
Jay Dedd

“Crusade” and “cross” both come from Latin “crux,” so the name is a redundant pun on the multiple meanings of “cross.” Could be considered ironically humorous in a Monty Python kind of way, but yeah — could do with a rebrand.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

Where does OBRA get the legal authority to ban this guy from what I believe are public spaces? Kind of a stretch, seems to me.

SERider
Guest
SERider

If they’re public spaces being used for a private, permitted event that’ a different situation though, right?

Mr. Scrooge
Guest
Mr. Scrooge

I would think so. You’re on public property. Constitutional protections should apply, right?

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

Yes. I put on events on the streets of Portland, Gresham, and cyclocross events in Portland Parks. The only authority that I had over non-participants was preventing them from entering the race course, for the safety of the public and the racers, of course. btw I have never actually seen the subject jersey; none of the links to pictures have worked for me.

SERider
Guest
SERider

Not all school grounds are public property that can be freely accessed at any time (many have hours posted when the public can’t use the property). PIR is owned by the city of Portland, but that doesn’t mean one is free to use it when/how ever they like.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Rick Potestio from the Cyclocross Crusade says they have sent the rider a letter, “informing him that he is in violation of our Code of Conduct and is banned from further participation in the race series. He is also banned from the two remaining venues: the Portland International Raceway and Barton Park.”

Where are you seeing that he is “banned from a public space”? He can certainly show up to the venue, but he won’t be able to race.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

No OBRA rents the venues and is allowed control over who can come onto the grounds during events and they were quite clear in the communication this evening that the rider who was suspended is not allowed to be present for any events during their suspension.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

If what you say is true, then things have changed a lot since my promoting days (80s and 90s). I never paid a dime for park use. I did pay multiple fees to the City of Portland for cops, sound variance, and a permit fee. But, the permit fee was for processing costs, it was never construed by me or the City as a Rental fee. And, I always knew that I had to respect the rights of non-participants, with the exception of allowing them onto the race course itself.

George
Guest
George

The amount of people defending a man’s right to wear a swastika to a bike race is astonishing. He has no “constitutional right” to do that at an OBRA-permitted event where the event organizer has a written code of conduct they require from all paying (and licensed) participants. When his shirt was just covered in anti-vax messaging at earlier races, people rolled their eyes but he was allowed to participate. He wasn’t “canceled.” But then he upped the ante to include swastikas. Why? Because the point of this isn’t some lofty defense of personal liberty, it’s to stir up conflict. I wish you had to explain your defense of his “right” to wear swastikas to just one of the 418,500 Americans who died in WWII.