close
close
Outrage over petition calling for white head of NYC marathon to resign amid racism claims - healthyfrog

Outrage over petition calling for white head of NYC marathon to resign amid racism claims

A petition has been launched calling for the immediate resignation of the white CEO of the non-profit responsible for organizing the NYC Marathon amid claims of ‘institutional racism and oppression’ in the workplace.

So far, the petition demanding New York Road Runners (NYRR) CEO Michael Capiraso step down has been signed by 850 people.  

However, critics of the online document are calling the allegations ‘baseless’, and some are even insisting it is a smear campaign that ‘reeks of just piling on the BLM and #metoo movements without a stitch of supporting evidence.’ 

The campaign’s emergence comes just weeks after NYRR announced it would be laying off around 11 percent of its workforce and furloughing another 28 percent of staff, citing financial hardships brought by the on-going coronavirus pandemic. 

The author of the petition was reportedly initially listed as Michael Schnall, who, according to LinkedIn, is the Vice President of Government Relations and Community Investment at NYRR. His name previously appeared as the author when sharing the petition.  

Schnall was furloughed by NYRR on August 1. In a statement to DailyMail.com, he emphatically denied any involvement in the petition.

‘I encourage everyone to speak up at our organization, but I did not play any role in organizing this petition,’ he said.

Critics are calling the claims against NYRR’s Michael Capiraso (above) ‘baseless’, with some insisting the petition ‘reeks of just piling on the BLM and #metoo movements without a stitch of supporting evidence’

The appeal’s emergence comes just weeks after NYRR announced it would be laying off around 11 percent of its workforce and furloughing another 28 percent of staff, because of hardships brought by the on-going coronavirus pandemic

The appeal’s emergence comes just weeks after NYRR announced it would be laying off around 11 percent of its workforce and furloughing another 28 percent of staff, because of hardships brought by the on-going coronavirus pandemic

The Anonymous Allegations Made on the Petition’s Instagram Page:

While the petition itself falls short of detailing specific instances to back up its claims of institutional racism at NYRR, Rebuild NYRR started an Instagram page detailing allegations said to have been made by former and current employees. They include:

 – A latinx employee was allegedly accosted by a white colleague for speaking Spanish during a phone call

– After furloughing and laying off 51% of the company, selective laid off staff were rehired as contractors to replace BIPOC staff. The rehired staff were allegedly white men

–  Black employees reported having to endure ridicule for their natural hair texture in the office. One high level manager allegedly suggested to an employee that they chemically relax their hair to be ‘professional’

– Female employees of color claimed they were regularly typecast as ‘aggressive’ for being assertive in team meetings. White female staffers apparently weren’t reprimanded when they didn’t agree or were assertive

– One worker claimed that an employee was not allowed to ‘publicly say Jesse Owens was their favorite runner in history because it might offend neo-Nazis’

NYRR has not yet responded to the allegations. 

The group behind the petition, Rebuild NYRR, also denied Schnall’s involvement in the campaign in a written statement. 

‘Mike Schnall is not involved in this campaign,’ the group told DailyMail.com. ‘Most of the complaints about toxic work culture stem from senior leaders at the company. We would not have elicited advice or assistance from someone who has relationships with that network.

The organizer added: ‘We will continue to be anonymous out of fear of retaliation.’  

The petition was posted to Change.org last week by Rebuild NYRR, a coalition of current and past employees who say they’re ‘calling for the immediate resignation of Michael Capiraso, President and CEO of NYRR.’

‘We are also calling for the Board to commit to the implementation of policies that will level the playing field for all employees, especially those representing marginalized communities,’ the petition says.

According to Rebuild NYRR, employees have ‘for years’ reported experiencing racism, bias and bullying that ‘goes unchecked’. 

While the petition itself falls short of detailing specific instances to back up its claims of institutional racism at NYRR, the Rebuild NYRR group has set up an Instagram page where members can anonymously share their alleged experiences.

‘Black employees endure ridicule for their natural hair texture in the office,’ one anonymous post claimed. ‘One high level manager suggested to an employee that they chemically relax their hair to be professional.’

Another post said that ‘women of color, including myself, are readily referred to and written up as being ‘aggressive’, ‘not a team player’ or ‘does not collaborate well with others’ for being assertive and not always agreeing with everything presented to us.

‘White female counterparts’, meanwhile are allegedly ‘not reprimanded when they do not agree or are assertive.’

The author of the petition was initially listed as Michael Schnall, who, according to LinkedIn, is the Vice President of Government Relations and Community Investment at NYRR

A post to his Twitter, which has since been deleted, spoke about tackling white privilege

The author of the petition was initially listed as Michael Schnall, who, according to LinkedIn, is the Vice President of Government Relations and Community Investment at NYRR. He denied any involvement with the campaign to DailyMail.com

Top of the group’s agenda is securing the resignation Capiraso, claiming the he ‘fosters toxic, discriminatory, and systemically racist work culture at NYRR'

Top of the group’s agenda is securing the resignation Capiraso, claiming the he ‘fosters toxic, discriminatory, and systemically racist work culture at NYRR’

Other messages on the page claim that Hispanic employees were berated by fellow staff members for speaking in Spanish, and not English, in the office. Others say they were told they weren’t able to post about social justice issues on their personal social media pages.

One post claimed that an employee was not allowed to ‘publicly say Jesse Owens was their favorite runner in history because it might offend neo-Nazis.’

Signers of the petition also detailed various alleged instances describing a toxic work culture or racial discrimination.

‘I was directly affected by their bully tactics,’ wrote Janet Cupo. ‘”A place for every pace” was our motto. It became a place – as long as you in a certain financial bracket, young, white, skinny and have blond hair. NO don’t stop with Michael. The Board and senior management must be held accountable.’

Rashsaan Chisolm added: ‘I’m signing, because I am an employee of the organization and it’s unfortunate that I have to say this, but none or the stories that Rebuild NYRR has brought to light is incongruent with my experience personally/professionally or with stories I am aware of at NYRR.’

In a biography accompanying the petition, the group writes: ‘We want to create a healthy, equitable, and safe environment for ourselves and for our community.

‘We have been pushing for fairness and cultural competency for years only to have it fall on deaf ears. So today, we are turning to the public, our board of directors, the running community, supporters and allies to ask for your support.’

The petition then outlines 10 demands for the New York Road Runner’s board of directors.

While the petition itself falls short of detailing specific instances to back up its claims of institutional racism at NYRR, the Rebuild NYRR group has set up an Instagram page where members can anonymously share their alleged experiences

Other messages on the page claim that Hispanic employees were berated by fellow staff members for speaking in Spanish, and not English, in the office

While the petition itself falls short of detailing specific instances to back up its claims of institutional racism at NYRR, the Rebuild NYRR group has set up an Instagram page where members can anonymously share their alleged experiences.

Another post said that ‘women of color, including myself, are readily referred to and written up as being ‘aggressive’, ‘not a team player’ or ‘does not collaborate well with others’ for being assertive and not always agreeing with everything presented to us'

One post claimed that an employee was not allowed to ‘publicly say Jesse Owens was their favorite runner in history because it might offend neo-Nazis.’

Another post said that ‘women of color, including myself, are readily referred to and written up as being ‘aggressive’, ‘not a team player’ or ‘does not collaborate well with others’ for being assertive and not always agreeing with everything presented to us’. One post claimed that an employee was not allowed to ‘publicly say Jesse Owens was their favorite runner in history because it might offend neo-Nazis.’

Signers of the petition also detailed various alleged instances describing a toxic work culture or racial discrimination

Signers of the petition also detailed various alleged instances describing a toxic work culture or racial discrimination

Top of the group’s agenda is securing the resignation Capiraso, claiming he ‘fosters toxic, discriminatory, and systemically racist work culture at NYRR.’

The group also called for an independent pay equity audit to address gaps in compensation based around gender and race; to restructure the company’s human resource department to foster ‘an anti-racist and anti-discriminatory workplace’; and for a new, external, president and CEO to be selected by a diverse search committee.

In an interview with Medium, one anonymous employee accused Capiraso of cultivating a reactionary culture that features a lack of transparency where employees fear retaliation if they come forward with any negative experiences.

Citing the growth of the New York City Marathon, the world’s largest race of its kind, the employee said NYRR has since lost sight of its original mission statement.

‘Capiraso has the growth and revenue numbers from the world’s largest marathon in his back pocket and uses that as a shield against accountability,’ the employee told Medium’s Justin Horneker.

Other employees told the website that the layoffs and furloughs, announced towards the end of July, disproportionately affected the organization’s minority employees. White contractors were allegedly then brought in to replace them.

Capiraso, meanwhile, was said to have earned a salary of $479,195 last year – $350,000 more than the typical salary of a non-profit CEO, which comes in at an average of $103,345. He did take a 20 percent pay cut in response to the pandemic, but employees say that’s not enough. 

NYRR is responsible for organizing the New York Marathon, the world's largest race of its kind

NYRR is responsible for organizing the New York Marathon, the world’s largest race of its kind

What is Rebuild NYRR Demanding? 

1. Immediate removal of Michael Capiraso, president and CEO as he ‘fosters toxic, discriminatory, and systemically racist work culture at NYRR’

2. Conduct an independent pay equity audit, communicate results, and take corrective action to remediate disparities. 

3. Restructure Human Resources and accompanying policies and procedures to foster an anti-racist and anti-discriminatory workplace. 

4. Communicate results from DEI audit, commit to sustained action by the new CEO, and integrate results through visible leadership and a willingness to address and rectify an organizational culture that promotes White dominance.

5. Commit to DEI integration in all segments of business and program operations, not just workplace culture.

Finalize hiring VP of DEI who will commit to integrating DEI into all operations including media and PR.

Commit to centering BIPOC communities we serve and involving people directly impacted into the planning, implementation, and evaluation of services and policies.

6. A new, external, President and CEO hired by a diverse search committee, in close cooperation with staff (representing all levels and all departments), with demonstrated leadership in community-based non-profit work.

7. Conduct an independent audit on youth and community programming and investigate possible financial malfeasance.

8. Develop a philanthropy strategy that centralizes fundraising under one umbrella and is reflective of all youth and community programs and supports NYRR as a running community organization.

9. Board chairs commit to monthly all-staff check-ins until the new president and CEO is hired and commit to future staff check-ins (without SLT’s).

10. Hire an independent interim CEO to lead the organization until a permanent and external president and CEO is hired.

 

NYRR has not yet responded to a DailyMail.com request for comment on the allegations, or the calls for Capiraso to resign.

According to Medium, NYRR commissioned a Diversity Equity and Inclusion report to be carried out earlier this year in a bid to potentially address workplace culture issues raised by employees. 

A DEI report allows allow organizations to observe potential diversity issues in the workplace in an anonymous forum.

However, whether the outcome of the DEI was ever shared with the employees or the board remains unclear.

Medium reported that the findings were never shared with staff or NYRR’s board.

However an anonymous post to Rebuild NYRR’s Instagram page uploaded Friday suggested it now has.

‘Yesterday, NYRR shared its findings on DEI … with the Board of Directors and Staff. These findings align with what RebuildNYRR has been publicly sharing,’ the post read, offering no further detail.

‘In response, NYRR has created task forces to create policy and process changes across the organization. There task forces are led by many of the same senior leaders who have either been responsible for perpetuating a toxic work environment laced in discrimination.’

The group called NYRR’s alleged plans to implement a task force ‘unacceptable.’ 

While the petition seems to be garnering support from NYRR employees and members alike, with 859 signatures secured of its goal of 1,000, the drive is also drawing critics in equal measure.

In a running forum discussing the fallout, users criticized the petition for failing to outline specific instances to back up their claims of institutional racism, bias and bullying.

‘I’m sure it doesn’t help that NYRR laid off half of their employees when they have plenty of money that they are holding as investments. Lots of disgruntled employees and former employees,’ one wrote.

‘So…what are the specific complaints? Seems like a whole lot of “systemic this, institutional that” without any actual concrete examples,’ another added.

Other users said that in order to substantiate the claims, more evidence is needed than just Instagram posts from anonymous sources.

‘This reeks of just piling on the BLM and #metoo movements without a stitch of supporting evidence,’ blasted one commenter. ‘Are people surprised that an entity that hosts races that cannot host races for 10 months out of the year, which includes to race that funds everything (the NYC Marathon), had to lay off a lot of employees? Do these disgruntled former employees think that they still should have their jobs even though there is no work for them to do?’

Another said: ‘Critical race theory is seeping into all areas of society. Running is one of the most democratic activities imaginable, and this anonymous, juvenile slander needs to be stopped in its tracks. NO MORE!’

One user, who claimed to be a current employee, attempted to stem the building scepticism of the petition’s basis.

‘As a current NYRR employee, I will say that the concerns expressed on the Instagram account are shared by virtually the entirety of NYRR’s staff — those of us who were kept on as well as those who were let go.

‘Important to understand is that this is not a personal attack on Michael. He has many abilities as a leader and CEO that will be difficult to replace. However, it is clear that his leadership skill set does not include the ability to convey sensitivity and moral conviction to his staff, and he has repeatedly failed to set a precedent for accountability or transparency within the organization.’

But many pushed back on the apparent employee’s assurances.

‘You say it does not seem to be a personal attack. To me it comes across as very personal,’ one wrote in rebuttal. 

‘My impression was that whoever started the campaign wants us to believe Michael leads a racist organization. Now some want to argue the words “racist” and “hate” have been watered down to not have a lot of meaning, but it’s one of the most damning accusations you can throw at someone in today’s era. No right minded person wants to be a racist.’

A member of Rebuild NYRR could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.