Crutcher’s Corner | The Federated Association Of Motocross Racers United
PHOTO | MX Matt
The cat is finally out of the bag. The payout schedule for the outdoor nationals has been released. It took rather long to get it into the hands of the public this year but was inevitable, given the hot button topic of how the racers in the sport are paid. Many throughout the sport believe the payout is less than adequate. Actually, just about anyone you ask from racer, wrench, fan, to pundit will likely throw negative adjectives your way in regards to the purse. When you consider the amount of work involved to race the outdoor nationals, one’s first thought after seeing the money will likely be the standard industry paradigm. Attached here is the pay scale sent from the promotion group to the racers.
I think the pay is par for the course. Some riders are even overpaid. Before you open Facebook to send me an angry message, continue reading.
There are professional motocross racers of many ages and skill levels. Some have better skills in whoops, while others are great at deep ruts. But one skill that practically the entire field at the races lacks is bargaining. The paddock is absolutely dying for collective bargaining from each racer in the form of a union. But because there is no such unit, the payout is deserving of athletes that do not unify.
Something that absolutely grinds my gears to polished nubs is this trend of pointing blame in the wrong direction. “The AMA is evil!” “MX Sports only cares about money for themselves.” “What a joke. Only $5,000 to win?” Those are a few quotes I’ve read across the net from individuals that pour their feelings out through their thumbs with absolute misalignment. The only thing worse is when the racers themselves, usually ones toward the back of the pack or those that fail to qualify, take to social media to denounce “they,” the presumed ruling groups.
To put it into perspective how unproductive these cries are, imagine if I was a drywall contractor, JC Drywall, INC. I find a General Contractor that needs drywall services on a job 400 miles from my office, and I accept the bid for a job that will pay $400 upon completion.
After spending $250 in materials plus another $300 in fuel and a hotel, I then go on social media and unabashedly complain, with great anger, how I got screwed by the GC because he didn’t pay me enough.
Then, I repeat the same process with the same General Contractor the very next weekend. On the way to the second job, I start a GoFundMe to subsidize how much it costs for me to accept these jobs, all while driving past two or three jobs that will cost substantially less in materials and general expenses but have the potential to pay double or more. But hey, the GC is to blame.
While we are playing the blame game, let’s pound three piles of sand.
Pile 1: the sanctioning body – A.M.A.
Pile 2: the promotion group – MX Sports.
Pile 3: the track operators.
The American Motorcyclist Association is not to blame here, as they are the ones that write the rulebook for the sport. They do not promote events, but they do have a system that certifies someone is a “professional rider” through the they points earned at regional events called Pro-Ams. The AMA is not responsible for racing and the $49 you pay them to be a member goes to fight for your right to ride a motorcycle (allegedly). When you buy a pro license, the $350 is divided up between AMA Pro Racing and MX Sports (as I have been told) and helps recoups the cost of the points keeping and filing systems. MX Sports is who actually issues your entry to their series as a rider, but only after you’ve been designated by the AMA as a professional.
MX Sports sets the payout structure. If I want to enter an event, it will cost $250, plus a convenience fee. The 250 and 450 classes will have 90 entries each at a full race, totaling $45,000 for the day. That’s right, outdoor nationals have less than 100% purse payback with full classes (remember, many of the Nationals sell all 180 entry spots). I pay my entry to MX Sports through the speakeasy website for pro riders only. So there you have it, that’s who is… wait… we have another pile of sand to pound.
The track operators are the ones that actually pay the purse, but how they pay the purse is a bit of a mystery to the general public. Unlike a local race, where at the end of the day you go to the trophy trailer and collect an envelope stuffed with cash, MX Sports mails you a check according to your finishes. My sources say that the tracks pay the promotion group a flat fee for the weekend, plus a portion of each ticket sale, for the rights to hold a National. Inside that flat fee is reimbursement of the payout to all of the riders that qualified for the 250 and 450 Class motos. At the end of the season, MX Sports sends each racer that made money a W2. I hope Johnny Privateer kept his books straight all year because we’re going to need to offset those earnings.
We all remember “Limegate” from the 2019 Supercross season. That single event could have been the catalyst to change for all riders. Feld even started a weekly pre-race sit-down meeting and invited team management and racers of all levels. Behind the scenes, there was a group chat that included about 60 racers and a few journalists, all in a discussion that included forming a union, if there would be class-action lawsuits, and where to go from that point on. Nearly every racer, from the points leaders to 450 Group C filler, was included in the discussions.
Nothing ever really developed. The weekly meetings saw a huge drop-off in attendance and the group chat slowly dried to no progress. The one opportunity to truly unite the entire paddock was washed out within a few weeks, in part by a lack of participation.
The pinnacle affair that all bargaining units require is active participation from all members.
Part of starting a rider union is that it will require more of what the entire problem is about: money. Nobody will work for free, especially someone that will be willing to carefully develop a pact that manages up to 999 racers in any given year. However, if paid well, the right person for the job could develop such an organization. I’m sure you’re aware that a collective workforce contributes to their cause through union dues. What would a proper buy-in be? $100? And what will objective number one be of a union be, one that was developed with a $70,000 budget paid for by 700 members? More pay for the racers sounds like a nice starting point, so let’s walk this one around the block.
“Attn MX Sports” the letter begins. “My name is…” Well hell, we must first elect a chairman of our union. Whatever, we will figure that out later. “I am writing to inform you that we have created a riders union. Attached below are the collective interests of our members. You have X amount of time to agree to our needs or our racers will not attend your events. Additionally, attached are all the members within our union.”
The first thing the recipient of the letter will do is see how many one and two-digit riders signed with the organization. That’s who drives the entirety of the sport, to a level worthy of attracting spectators. If that was not the truth, then the Triple Crown format SX races would flop. Maybe you’ll get a Benny, or a Freddie, maybe even a Joey on the list. But f Eli, Zach, Ken, Adam, and Jason aren’t on board, the promoters have nothing to worry about. The whole thing comes to a screeching halt if the factory signed riders do not join into the brotherhood, because privateers do not sell general admission tickets.
You have to ask yourself “What can 650 privateers offer to 50 of the top riders? What is something they don’t already have, but desperately need?” It’s a simple answer: Nothing. There is no incentive for factory riders to give a helping hand to those that get in their way every weekend and kindness of the heart only goes so far. The payout is designed to keep the top dogs happy and the series has enough luster and allure to keep the bottom-feeders waiting in the trough line called The Vault.
I dearly wanted my name in The Vault, because it mattered to me. Then, one Saturday, I realized the whole aspiration was a silly calling. I’d rather slug it out with locals on fun tracks across the midwest than I would rival anyone sponsored by an energy drink. I know what it means to be a professional, and its definition does not exclude 200% payback 30 miles from my house.
Logging into your preferred social platform and incessantly lamenting about being punched in the face because you’re a pugilist only mars the appearance of the industry from the inside out. MX is the biggest little sport in the world, and unlike the NBA, we don’t have room for every critic to aim their own podcast or Twitter at the powers that be.
As an enthusiast, if you want to see to it that the local pros from your region are taken care of, put your phone down and reach for your wallet. It takes subsidies to float an occupation that is not profitable. One reason the buck gets passed is rooted in the psyche of the average motocross fan, the majority of whom probably lean further right than left. Handing out cash to see someone else go have fun while you clock in at your lame job is a huge ask, especially when the lifeblood of motorsports enthusiasts scoff at the idea of entitlements. If you want to see change, be the change, quietly.
In closing, I want to make a proverbial offer to you, Joe Local Racer, of $350 for you to go race at the exact skill you are now, in the classes you compete in. That race has to be 8 hours away from your house, you pay for travel/expenses, you must stay in a hotel, regardless of how fast you are there will be 10 guys that finish in front of you and 10 guys that finish behind you, and after completing both motos I will send you a check for $350. You’ll have a story to tell your friends about for the rest of your life.
If this offer paid real money you could cash at the bank, you’d be loading up as fast as you could right now to go do it, because that deal is the best you’ll get. Or do you think I should pay you more?