Life Time and the directors of the DK race team are closing in on a new name for the marquee gravel race in Emporia, Kansas.
In June, race organizers committed to changing the name of the gravel event after a tumultuous spring.
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In April, a petition circulated on change.org asserting that the name Dirty Kanza was a racial slur against the Kaw people, commonly referred to as ‘Kanza.’ The DK team responded with a statement signed by Lynn Williams, the chairperson of the Kaw Nation’s tribal council, in which Williams expressed the Nation’s support of the race and its name. In June, Life Time and DK race founder Jim Cummins mutually parted ways after Cummins posted an insensitive and inflammatory comment about the death of Rayshard Brooks on his personal Facebook page.
Since then, Life Time and the DK race organizers have been meeting with key players in Emporia and the cycling industry to help them meet their stated pledge to change the event’s name, become more transparent, and establish a DEI coalition.
On Tuesday, the team released a statement chronicling its work over the past two months.
Notably, on July 22, four members of the DK team traveled to the Kaw Nation headquarters in Kaw City, OK. There, they met with three members of the tribal council, including Williams, to discuss the creation of a working relationship and to offer council members a place on the rebrand task force.
The tribal council members shared with the DK organizers that the controversy surrounding the DK’s name had grown to be too contentious and divisive for them to want to engage any longer.
“As the council has listened to their membership, they have respectfully asked for us to move forward without a connection to their tribe,” the DK’s statement read.
“We acknowledge this is a change in rhetoric from our April co-signed statement, but it is also important to acknowledge that a lot has transpired since then. This bike race means so much to our gravel cycling community. The Kaw Nation has much deeper-rooted priorities, that means so much to them. Their work for the benefit of their people goes well beyond a bike race, and we do ask that our cycling community respects the Kaw’s desires to focus on their tribe’s priorities and not continue to burden them with a cycling race.”
The DK’s rebrand task force consists of Emporia cycling leaders, Emporia business and tourism leaders, the Emporia-based DK team, members of the cycling media, a past champion, a 2x-podium finisher, and internal Life Time brand and marketing leaders. The task force met in July, earlier this month, and has a final meeting this week to discuss the current status of the rebrand.
In addition to the discussions by the task force, the DK team has been active in Emporia, circulating a survey to local business and community leaders, local cyclists, former champions, long-time DK supporters, athletes, and sponsors for their feedback and perspective on the rebrand. In Tuesday’s statement, race organizers expressed gratitude for both the constructive criticism and encouragement they’ve received during the rebrand process.
“This rebrand is the end of a chapter for us as the DK, but it will never take away from the Kanza history of the land on which we ride.”