- You would think that, after the tumultuous reign of Wayne Gertmenian and the ensuing efforts to heal its own finances and to mend relations with disaffected jockeys and irritated racetracks, the Jockeys’ Guild would go for a nice, safe, conservative selection for its new national manager. Like, perhaps, David Stevenson, a former rider himself, as well as a trainer, breeder and owner, and a person who is knowledgeable of issues such as slots and offshore wagering.
However, though the Guild denies that they have come to a decision, Stevenson has told the press that he’s been informed that the Guild has instead hired Dwight Manley, a rare coin collector/dealer and the owner of an agency that represents NBA players, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson; the two have proposed to become co-managers of the organization.
Manley is hardly a low-profile guy. Among his basketball clients have been two of the more flamboyant and eccentric, to put it nicely, players in the NBA’s recent history: Dennis Rodman, and Bison Dele, who played under the name Brian Williams, and then disappeared under mysterious circumstances at sea in 2002, presumed murdered by his brother Kevin, who later committed suicide. There’s much more on the two in this fascinating 2002 piece from Sports Illustrated.
It’s interesting to note that the Rev. Jackson at one time intervened for Manley in the case of both those players – appealing to NBA Commissioner David Stern to commute a suspension for Rodman, and trying to talk Williams out of retirement after he left the Pistons in 1999.
The apparent hiring is already causing some rumbles amongst riders, according to Tom LaMarra in Bloodhorse.com. Mike Luzzi has resigned from the Senate, and he said, ""Some guys expressed disappointment, and I'm sure some people are concerned," Luzzi said. I haven't been to the jocks' room yet, but I'm sure I'll hear some kind of talk."
What Manley and Rev. Jackson’s motives may be in aligning themselves with a sport neither knows much about is hard to say, unless you consider that, according to sources cited by LaMarra, their proposal calls for the pair to receive 15% of the Guild's gross revenue for the life of the Guild. (Again, that reads: for the life of the Guild.) At least in the case of Rev. Jackson, the gig would fit with his agenda of aiding those who are getting the short end of the stick. On the other hand, Stevenson portrayed his interest as strictly benevolent. "I would hesitate to say I'm disappointed because it's their loss not mine. I was trying to help them. It was about them, not me." [Thoroughbred Times] And he called for building cooperation and trust between the Guild and the industry. "I think it can be done in harmony," Stevenson said of the Guild having a working relationship with others in the industry. "It shouldn't be us or them." [Bloodhorse]
LaMarra reports that an announcement has not been made because sources said they believe the board is testing the industry waters before the announcement is made. I bet they’ll find that those waters will be quite choppy. Already, a remark by Rev. Jackson from his presentation has caused some extreme reactions. Speaking of independent contractors, the status that racetracks have given to jockeys, he said: "It's a long word meaning semi-indentured servant." Matt Hegarty in the Form noted that Jackson's speech had echoes of the language used by Gertmenian, who once compared Churchill Downs to a "plantation."
The website Equidaily went a step or three further. The site is a treasure trove of links to racing stories, but its uncanny physical resemblance to the repugnant Drudge Report has always made me a bit queasy. But today, Equidaily adopted some of Drudge’s tactics of twisting the news to fit his own agenda as well. Under the blurb “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” the site printed the following:
>>>Rev Jesse Jackson is in the running for spot as Jockeys' Guild national co-mgr... Questioned the widely accepted status of jockeys as independent contractors. "It's a long word meaning semi-indentured servant."Now, the wisdom of choosing what could certainly be a volatile and polarizing pair in Manley/Jackson over Stevenson is certainly up for debate. But to intimate in any way that the Rev. Jackson, who has worked all his life to help the oppressed, downtrodden, and those who are discriminated against in this country, is the “same boss” as the scumbag who cynically eviscerated the organization financially, betrayed their trust, and allowed the riders’ insurance to expire without saying a word is going way, way too far.
>>> Flashback to 2004: 'Dr G' compared the plight of jockeys seeking coverage from tracks to that of blacks during slavery and segregation, "I had hoped the days of Master and Slave were over."
Just the fact that Rev. Jackson can inspire these kinds of reactions, as he certainly has at times over the years may, in itself, be a reason to go in the other direction. The Guild has spent the last several months repairing relations with the industry; indeed, some of the racetracks that cut off media rights payments last year under the old regime are making payments again. It is, of course, up to the Guild to decide what’s best for them, and let’s reserve judgment until an official announcement is made. But it seems to me that a dose of some “why can’t we all just get along?” could go a long way for the Guild, and for the industry as a whole.