Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Blind Sponsors: Paralympians Handicapped by Discrimination

Author: JJ Wellings
Created: 29 June, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
4 min read

Disability discrimination is a relic. Or is it? Is it discrimination if an able-bodied person is paid 20 times that of a disabled person? Is it discrimination if an able-bodied person is paid their bonus every time they make their target but a disabled person only gets it once?

A reasonable person can see these are rhetorical questions. Of course disabled people should be paid and treated the same as able-bodied people. So, why are there still pockets of disparity in our modern world?

The answer: it is all nonsense. We live in a country that purports to be founded on each person's freedom to be who they are, to live without persecution and receive equal treatment. A foundation where religion is a personal choice but is unable to influence the law and governance of the people. Yet segregation by color still existed within some people's lifetimes and people hate others because of their religion.

With this background it’s no surprise that some people with disabilities not only have to overcome more than an able-bodied person to be on a level footing, they still get less recompense. What if one man had surpassed the abilities of 99.9% of the able-bodied population and still was paid less than his able-bodied counterparts? That would be a travesty.

Sadly, that travesty exists.

David Brown can run 100m in 10.92 seconds. He does this despite being completely blind. Losing his sight at the age of 6, Brown’s vision was completely gone by 13. It was at that time that David won an essay competition that changed the course of his life. The prize was to go to the Beijing Olympics to watch the Paralympics. There he experienced 2-time Olympic trialist, Jerome Avery, running as a guide for a blind sprinter.



Blessed with natural raw power he decided to transfer those memories and chart his own course on the track himself. He soon found himself under the gaze of the USA Paralympic coaches. Before too long, the sighted guides running with him couldn’t keep up and were slowing him down. They had to turn to the best guide around, Jerome Avery, an Olympic-level sprinter in his own right. Avery was the only man around who could run faster than Brown.

The challenge does not end there. Avery has to talk and match his gait at breakneck speeds. Soon after, Team BrAvery, as they have become known, recorded the fastest time ever for 100m for any totally blind athlete -- 10.92 seconds. Let that sink in.

If Brown was racing Tyson Gay or Usain Bolt he would be about a second behind. A big margin in sprinting terms, but not in the layman's. Just imagine Gay or Bolt crossing the line, and one second later Brown would burst across. A staggering achievement considering his blindness.

Brown has had to train and compete with gear that is below Olympic standards. He uses blown out running spikes.

It’s true that Nike sponsors the US Track and Field team, but that is largely for uniforms.

Dick’s Sporting Goods supports USA athletes providing some 20 hours a week of work at their stores. The folks at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California provide housing and food through the USOC. But the hardware of the job, like shoes and spikes, are dealt with through individual contracts.

This is where you come in.

Team BrAvery isn’t asking sponsors for million-dollar contracts. Although it would be more deserved than most. They just want the hardware to perform and money to pay their travel and expenses.

The US sports retail market is a roughly $63 billion business. Team BrAvery was struggling to even get suitable equipment. Their requirements are not unreasonable.

The only brand to step up so far is Adidas, who have supplied them with full sets of competitive equipment for all their sponsored athletes.

Discrimination takes many forms and financial is one of them. Brown and Avery receive not even a twentieth of what an able-bodied athlete does in prize money, fewer bonuses than able-bodied athletes, and are not as commercially attractive to the corporate sponsors as  able-bodied ones.

David Brown deserves the opportunity to compete with the best equipment at the highest level. How is this the case where a man overcomes all odds with utter determination and great team work with Avery? Are these not the virtues national athletic bodies should be rewarding? Is this not the marketing gold for corporate America?

David Brown is blind. Seems society is as well.