GraceKennedy threatens to pull Champs sponsorship over indiscipline by athletes
GraceKennedy, the major sponsor of the annual ISSA Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships has warned that it could pull its sponsorship of the event if the indiscipline by some athletes that marred this year’s event, continues.
The warning was issued on Saturday’s final day of the five-day championships by the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Don Wehby, inside the National Stadium. He was speaking during a television interview.
Wehby, who is also a Government senator, took issue with two events in particular; one having to do with a male athlete raising his hand in a gun salute as he ran past another athlete and the second where Kingston College’s Nicardo Clarke attacked Calabar’s Khamani Gordon at the end of the Boys’ class two 100m final after Gordon impeded him during the race.
Clarke, who was expected to medal, placed fifth as a result; however his attack on Gordon, which forced officials to separate them, resulted in ISSA banning him for the rest of the championships. The decision was later overturned and Clarke was reinstated.
Wehby expressed his disappointment at the behavior of the athletes involved.
“We’re not going to be associated with Champs if indiscipline continues and there were two incidents that I am very, very concerned about,” he said. He explained that the incident involving the gun salute was brought to his attention on social media and he also admitted that he had not yet seen the fracas between Clarke and Gordon. Wehby said as a result it may be premature for him to comment on that incident.
“But what I would say to you is that Don Wehby feels personally strong about it and GraceKennedy [as well]. We’re not putting up with any indiscipline. I prefer not to be associated with Champs than have indiscipline,” he declared.
The CEO shared that he has given the matter some thought and also revealed that he had spoken to the President of ISSA, Keith Wellington about the incidents. He also stressed that matters related to discipline are the purview of ISSA and not the sponsors.
“I don’t know what their (ISSA) policy is in terms of discipline but what I will say is that it’s a bigger issue than Champs. It is a social issue that we’re facing in Jamaica but GraceKennedy as sponsors; we can lead an effort in terms of having discipline here,” said Wehby.
He emphasised that he was very concerned about the two incidents and said he will be calling a meeting with ISSA as soon as the championships ended in order to get a better understanding of ISSA’s policy relating to discipline.
“But what I can say to Jamaica is that GraceKennedy prefers to not be associated (with Champs) despite all of this glory if it’s associated with indiscipline.
“I’m willing to invest in any exercise that will enhance discipline at the Champs level,” he added.
Wehby said he understands emotions and he also understands that those involved are young. However, he insisted that there has to be boundaries.
Described as one of the Caribbean’s largest conglomerates, GraceKennedy is by far the biggest sponsor of the five-day high school championships which is described as the largest and most competitive of any similar event on the planet.
GraceKennedy’s sponsorship of $170 million this year was drawn from its food and finance divisions. The company also operates several foundations. Any decision taken to pull its sponsorship would leave ISSA with a gaping hole in its Champs budget.