We Are Our Worst Enemies

One of the runner-ups of the Pulpmx Show essay contest, Klinton Silvey, has some thoughts on how riders can get paid more and it starts with you


Worst Enemies

By Klinton Silvey

The huge gap in rider salaries (or lack thereof) is a hot topic in motocross.  While there has never been a time where most of 40 rider gate at a national weren’t struggling to pay the bills, a down economy and The Moto’s latest six episode series has put the harsh realities riders face in the limelight.

I doubt you could find a motocross fan who wouldn’t agree that changes need to be made that would allow a 10th place rider to take home a decent chunk of change. For example, a more equal distribution of the $96,000 supercross purse could make a huge difference for privateers without causing any real pain to the boys at the tippy top of the A list.  Every rider that makes the night show could easily go home with no less than $1000.

But purse money is ultimately chump-change.  It will never be enough to allow a privateer to make the living they deserve.  If significant change is ever going to happen I think our sport’s fans and riders need to embrace the truth. 

We have to realize what professional athletes are paid forThey are paid to be billboards. 

Riders are not paid because they take risks or because they win.  If they were, then every skydiver and local Vet class hero would be the richest guys in the country.

Our sport is driven by advertising a.k.a. sponsorship.  James Stewart continues to get paid by personal sponsors even when he isn’t racing because he is visible.  Picture James Stewart in your head.  Did you see a Red Bull logo?  I’d bet you’ve probably bought a Red Bull too, but it is a lot less likely that you’ve every tried a Spike energy drink. 

As fans, we know this is the case, but we usually don’t act like it. This is a big problem for the 8th-12th place crowd.  Let’s face it, what really sucks in our sport is a complete lack of fan loyalty to anyone who hasn’t won a race. 

Only NBA players from one team can win a championship each year, yet Rose, Bryant, James and Lin jerseys sell like hotcakes. There is only one Tim Tebow, who, even when not playing is still worth millions of dollars because of loyal fans.  It’s all about name recognition and marketing, not winning.  Winning helps, but it isn’t everything.  Just ask Hart and Watson how it is they are now part of a factory-supported team.


You should get to be a fan of Jimmy Albertson says Silvey. Photo by Lissimore

Of course the popularity of moto isn’t in the same galaxy of stick-and-ball sports, which is exactly why we can’t afford to miss what the rest of the world seems to know — it’s OK to root for a loser.  Motocrossers have big psychological problem and it goes something like this: “I’m a Chad Reed fan.  So if Chad Reed wins, that makes me cooler.  But if he loses, then I’m a nobody.”  It’s as if all our self-worth is tied up in who we cheer for. 

So, naturally, we really, really like one or two of the eight or nine guys (including both classes) who have the speed to win.  The rest? Hey, they’re a “good guy” (sorry, Steve) and we “wish them all the best.” Is it any wonder that Dungey, Villo and the like make millions while a Hahn scrapes by?

Just for the fun of it, let’s dream of a motocross world where, yes, the champ is the best paid, but where fans remain loyal to a rider who, frankly, is NEVER going to win.  Can you imagine Chisolm shirts selling right along side Barcia jerseys?

This is a grandiose dream, but we’ve got to realize that manufacturers are never going to sell enough motorcycles to justify paying every pro a large salary.  The money has to come from outside the industry, and that is only going to happen when Home Depot can say, “You know, there are a lot of motocross fans fiercely loyal to Josh Grant.  I bet if we slap a sticker on him then 10 or 20 of them will think of us when they are building a house.” 

We’ll never see a Kiniry making millions, but $75K-$100K consistently could be possible.  It just hast to start with the fans.  Until we start showing up in the autograph lines at the MUNN racings of the world, potential sponsors will see no financial reason to support the underdogs and we’ll spend the next 50 years of motocross decrying its injustices just like we did the first 50.