August 12, 2022
252 Nassau Street
Princeton, NJ 08542
To the USRowing Board:
Over the last two months, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support in response to our letter to you on June 2, 2022. We have heard from rowers, coaches, referees, business owners, parents, and children. LGBTQ+ people and their allies have shared with us how your decision to hold Masters National Championships in Sarasota, FL, has affected them and altered their relationship with the sport. Well over 300 individuals, organizations, and rowing clubs have joined our action.
Since our letter, we have heard from your staff and leadership: We are pleased that you plan to develop and distribute a venue and vendor policy and a more transparent process for venue selection by the end of this year. We look forward to a time for public comments and feedback. We are encouraged that you might change venues for Nationals in 2023 and beyond—hopefully ensuring USRowing regattas will be held in states with laws that reflect your stated values. We will continue to wait for news on this front.
Yet in the face of progress, your staff has said on multiple occasions that the success of Masters National Championships is what makes USRowing’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives possible in the first place. At one point telling us, "Every single dollar of operating profit" from "membership, organizational and individual events and regattas, youth and masters programming, coaching education, and safety and wellbeing" is "essentially" what funds USRowing’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work.
This implies that USRowing operates a lean budget with profits dedicated largely to advancing issues of social equity, but that is not the case.
In 2020 (the last year a public filing is available), three (3) of USRowing’s coaches alone were paid a combined total of $717,508—not including $19,821 in other compensation. That same filing states that you awarded $0 in grants and scholarships, which certainly gives you room for growth when it comes to funding your DEI work. These three coaches, and a handful of others like them, benefit a select few rowers, yet are paid for by our membership dues and profits from Nationals and similar events.
As we wrote on June 2, "We understand that doing the right thing can be hard and costly, but that is how USRowing’s mettle and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion will be shown—if it is willing to do what is right to protect and support its members."
And as your staff wrote on June 22, "We believe that change will come by demonstrating our values wherever we go, providing visibility and voice to our LGBTQ+ rowers, and growing the size and diversity of our sport, so that our voice delivers a greater impact."
To that end, the Board of Directors of DC Strokes Rowing Club has voted to create a dedicated fund to recruit, support, and develop LGBTQ+ rowers around the country. Beginning in 2023, LGBTQ+ rowers from other clubs and organizations will be invited to apply for scholarships to pay for their USRowing, club, and program fees; those who are interested in competing in regattas will be able to apply for travel and housing grants to help ease the burden of participation in events that are far from home; and clubs interested in training LGBTQ+ rowers and coaches will be able to apply for funding to do just that—including the disbursement of learn-to-row grants and stipends for those interested in pursuing Level 1, 2, or 3 Coaching Certification.
We will work with other organizations to grow this fund and expand the resources and opportunities available. These funds will be made available to LGBTQ+ people in need who are unaffiliated with DC Strokes, with a particular emphasis placed on benefiting women, trans people, and people of color.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion—and, with it, supporting LGBTQ+ rowers—should not be an afterthought. It should not depend on the success of a specific event, held in a specific state, to ensure that diversity is central throughout all that we do. It should not depend on the scraps from the profit margins of what premier coaches are paid.
We are a small organization, with a limited reach, but we see the importance of this work. To those reading this letter, if you are interested in donating to the LGBTQ+ Rower Fund, please click here. Or click here to purchase a t-shirt to support the fund. 100% of all profits will go directly and exclusively to this fund.
We hope to hear more from USRowing over the months ahead as to how it will support LGBTQ+ rowers—in material ways.
We wish the best of luck to those participating in Nationals this week and hope the event will be a safe and welcoming experience for all in attendance.
DC Strokes Rowing Club