***NOTE*** Mid Strike Magazine’s sources for this interview are anonymous to keep sources safe. These statements are also allegations and are not intended to slander New York Road Runners, but more so bring to light the past issues of current and former employees of NYRR in an effort to bring a change of culture to one of the largest run companies in the world. MSM reached out to other sources of which they would not confirm nor deny.
MSM: Proper representation is something that we at Mid Strike Magazine strive for. It’s also one of the reasons we launched this digital magazine. While working at New York Road Runners (NYRR) was the negative energy within the company something various employees felt at the beginning?
Anonymous: For some of our colleagues, their experiences vary depending on their roles. For many, NYRR seemed like a dream job, and once the honeymoon was over their perspectives changed. NYRR offers so many perks like midday yoga, flexibility to work from home, free races, and so much more, that new employees were initially blinded by the perks. For others, they saw problems right away. Some colleagues noticed quickly that everything required an approval. At many companies, employees are empowered to make decisions. New employees are encouraged to share a new perspectives, present new ideas, and help innovate, but at NYRR that isn’t the case. There aren’t meaningful approval processes. Everything just has to go to [CEO] Michael Capiraso for approval no matter how small it is. There is also a strong feeling of having to edit yourself for some. Individual thought and anything outside the narrow image that Michael wants people to fit into is made to feel extremely uncomfortable. Diversity is not welcomed.
MSM: The Board of Directors to most sounds like they should in turn understand the concerns of the staff. Why is there such a disconnect?
Anonymous: The board doesn’t get the full story. They haven’t been engaged with staff beyond a select few that shape the narrative to the board that everything at NYRR is good. It was strategically done to present a picture that the company and leadership are doing right by its employees and the communities that it serves. Michael is the gatekeeper and the board doesn’t receive communication that is transparent. He is not communicating the challenges the company is facing including the sentiments that employees have voiced over many years. The board seems to be hearing these concerns for the first time in the last few weeks, it is their choice now what they do with the information.
MSM: I’ve read that NYRR is very ego driven based mainly on trying to show off good PR to the press and fellow runners but this doesn’t seem like it’s the case. Could you give us a few examples?
Anonymous: How egotistical can you get? The Black Lives Matter post showcases that very clearly. The good PR is twofold: what we post on social media and public email communications does not reflect the company’s real disinterest in inclusion. Everything is very staged to show diversity. But how they manage diversity, equity, and inclusion internally is not prioritized. It’s not valued beyond checking boxes.
A lot of decision making happens to support “impact numbers” and strategic goals that are somewhat arbitrary. NYRR pushes to be the biggest and the best, at any cost. There is also a disconnect with real data to support public claims of impact. Michael drives all departments to continually push out new incentives, systems, events often resulting in huge financial investments, failure to utilize assets we already have, technical debt, and a culture of nonstop work and stress.
MSM: As Covid progressed in mid-to-late Spring and races were cancelled, many of the staff were furloughed. Do you feel there was equal opportunity to stay on given to staff that wasn’t white? This also leads to our next question regarding pay. Was the value of employees shown through their salaries or were folks undervalued?
Anonymous: White people were favored but so were people in Michael’s circle. When furloughs and layoffs were announced in the first week of July, we were told that it would be 30% of the company at all levels. We were shocked to read in Runner’s World that the number was actually about 40%. What NYRR reported to RW was that 11% were laid off and 28% were furloughed. When staff tallied the furloughs and layoffs based on the organizational chart the number was 51%.
There is no pay equity transparency. But we know from sharing with each other that certain groups have people in similar roles, with the same responsponsibilities, where one is paid far less than the other. Employees have started sharing salaries more lately and there has been a lot of extreme discrepancies discovered. Leadership weaponizes the “mission” and “being a team player” against employees to account for low pay and lack of promotions. This justification becomes upsetting when as an employee you see huge salaries for leadership and large spends on things for optics (DEI training, BLM donations, the hiring of law firms to address Rebuild stories) when all this could have been avoided by listening to BIPOC employees for the last few years.
MSM: It seems women of color employed at NYRR are treated very disrespectfully. Women of color have to fight so hard in the world we live in and are devalued everyday. Going through this daily working for a company has to be very draining. What were some instances where this was noticeable? Was anything spoken of to make these situations better?
Anonymous: One of the most obvious examples of this is the pay discrepancy and workload with woman of color at NYRR. WOC sit in the same roles 5, 7 or 10 years without promotions at NYRR, they carry heavy workloads and are told to “make it work with what they have”. WOC can come forward with documented evidence of an employee who reports to her not doing their work and having been verbally disrespectful, and be dismissed and placated by HR saying they’ll speak to the employee. The same complaint is made by a white woman and HR immediately implements disciplinary action. WOC are not taken seriously when they ask for help, file grievances with HR, or when they seek promotions. WOC are labeled as “aggressive” or “unprofessional” while doing the same things their white colleagues do. WOC also have to deal with a huge amount of emotional labor. They are asked to pick up the slack, do admin work, and constantly explain racism to leadership.
MSM: New York City is such a diverse town yet it seems like the NYRR staff doesn’t reflect the diversity of the city. Other than the few races NYRR does with Ted Corbitt and Percy Sutton, has NYRR ever made the concerted effort to hear the concerns of the Black and brown community? To focus on non white communities?
Anonymous: NYRR does very little to celebrate and represent non-white communities. The little representation they do is performative and unsubstantial. We feel this is a missed opportunity since we live in such a diverse city and NYRR is supposed to be a community serving company. The bulk of NYRR events take place in Central Park, not just because of the convenience but because it caters to the mostly white and affluent core member group. There is some programming in other boroughs but it is clear that programming is not a priority. For NYRR the goal is profit, not community service, care or support. NYRR organized a race they called a “community-run” in Central Park. This is how narrow their understanding of the community is. How is this reflective of the community NYRR is supposed to be representing? NYRR should ask themselves who they are serving.
MSM: Share with us some of the experiences and complaints that Black and brown employees faced that went unheard by NYRR’s human resources department.
Anonymous: There are just so many of these instances, it’s difficult to narrow it down to a few examples. The types of issues raised to HR that went unanswered range from serious harassment allegations to micro aggressions that happen every day. It has gotten to the point where people don’t want to bring issues to HR anymore because either the issues will be buried by HR or there will be some kind of retaliation from HR, leadership, or Michael Capriaso himself.
MSM: Hiring practices are also an issue at NYRR that you all brought up. Do you feel employees received their fair chance or were they always overlooked and in turn someone else was hired with less experience?
Anonymous: It starts with getting in the door. HR and leadership has a pattern of hiring a specific type of person. This type of person is a thin, usually white, able-bodied runner. When someone is hired outside of that “ideal NYRR employee” description they must be exceptional and will often have a hard time getting promoted or being valued long term at NYRR.
In addition to hiring practices, it’s about the opportunities that people get access to. Whether it is working on new and innovative projects, working on task forces, or being a part of special initiatives it’s all decided with bias so often you don’t see diversity reflected in the ways it should be. As a result of that, there are short sighted and problematic ways that decisions are made and initiatives are implemented throughout the company because the right voices are not at the table.
MSM: Looking at the Rebuild NYRR page, what I’m gathering is the same corporate structure as most large corporations where management at the top does not reflect the type of culture and diversity below it. Take us through some of the changes you would like to see at NYRR.
Anonymous: Currently, most of the top leadership at NYRR is out of touch with the community they represent. We would like to see a diverse leadership team who are each empowered to make decisions without the micromanaging and constant narrative controlling of Michael Capiraso. We also want to see senior leaders held responsible for their actions, just like the rest of the staff is.
MSM: Where can our readers sign the petition for change while also keeping track of Rebuild NYRR.
Anonymous: All of our information, including our Instagram and petition can be found at www.rebuildnyrr.org.
There’s one more thing we would like to say:
We would like to state that we are not attempting to destroy NYRR, we are simply trying to eradicate the deep issues of inequality and discrimination that run rapid within the organization. We truly want to see NYRR be the incredible resource and leader it should be for this community. The issues we list are not new. Rebuild NYRR comes after YEARS of employees doing everything they can do to inform leadership and address the issues we all know exist. Rebuild is our final attempt to create change after years of having these issues be buried and not addressed internally. There are many experiences and stories that have not come to light yet. We would like to see these all be heard and addressed. We are hopeful for change and optimistic that this type of toxicity no longer has a place in our community and in our world. Thank you to everyone who has sent us support, stories and thank you Mid Strike for this platform.