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Arkansas cycling industry responds to trans legislation

Published April 9, 2021

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (BRAIN) — Arkansas, thanks largely to resident Walmart heirs and cycling enthusiasts Steuart and Tom Walton, has become a destination for cycling, including races, other events, cycling tourism and brand headquarters. Recent state legislation regarding transgender people has caused some to question support for those brands and events. 

BRAIN has reached out to several industry members based in Arkansas for their take on the situation. Responses are below, with links to full statements were applicable. As of Sunday BRAIN had not received responses from Arkansas-based Time Bikes or from BikeBentonville, a group that promotes cycling tourism in Bentonville. 


"All of us at Rapha are deeply concerned by the series of policies targeting the LGBTQ+ community in Arkansas, and in particular those that are affecting the ability of transgender people to participate in sport. This trend is harmful and goes against everything we stand for. With our US headquarters based in Bentonville and close ties to Arkansas through our shareholders, this legislation strikes close to home. 

"Our purpose is, and has always been, to make cycling the most popular sport in the world. In order for this purpose to be realized, we advocate for equal access for all to cycling and every other sport. Our Arkansas-based shareholders share and support our opposition to the legislation passed in the state, and have made their own statement which outlines their position.

"Last year, we made a series of tangible and measurable commitments to promote diversity, equality and inclusion within cycling. Working towards these commitments has made us more accountable for what we say and do whilst also helping us to have an increasingly positive impact on the communities in which we live and ride. 

"As of 2021, we allocate 60% of funding from the Rapha Foundation towards BAME and female-focused organizations. We also invest 50% of our annual athlete sponsorship into BAME and LGBTQ+ teams and athletes, with the aim of increasing diversity, equity and inclusion at the elite level of the sport. 

While we cannot directly affect the legislation, we are determined to make our opposition clear, to stay true to our values, and to focus our efforts on helping to improve access to the sport we love for everyone in Arkansas and around the world. To that end, we will redouble our efforts to support cycling programs that create opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community, taking recent developments into account when selecting grantees for the Rapha Foundation’s next round of funding. We will actively seek out other ways of supporting the LGBTQ+ communities both locally and globally wherever possible."


Drew Medlock, CEO at Allied Cycle Works regarding the recent legislation and events regarding Arkansas:

Thanks for reaching out to us.  We were very disappointed to see the recent string of legislation targeted at LGBTQ people in our state.  Allied believes strongly in diversity and equal access, and we view these recent bills as counter to the inclusiveness we value as a business and cycling community.  People have done the right thing to speak up and bring awareness to the issues in the cycling community.  However, we see that the UCI, USA Cycling and the Fayetteville community are working in good faith to help drive change and promote inclusiveness.   Bikes are a huge part of the progression to transform our region which is good for everyone, and we believe the Cyclocross Worlds and the many other great cycling events in our area contribute to that positive momentum.  

Tom Walton/Walton Family Foundation

Tom Walton issued a statement on April 6, on the Walton Family Foundation website. Walton said the foundation supported Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto of one piece of legislation related to the transgender community. Walton also said the Foundation was "alarmed by the string of policy targeting LGBTQ people in Arkansas," an apparent reference to> the three other pieces of anti-trans legislation that Hutchinson did sign.

The Arkansas legislature overturned Hutchinson's veto soon after Walton released the statement. Tom Walton and brother Steuart are principals in RZC Investments, which owns part of Rapha and HIA Velo (the parent of Allied Cycle Works). The two are also major supporters of cycling infrastructure and promotion across the state and in Bentonville in particular. 

USA Cycling

USA Cycling's CEO Rob DiMartini spoke with last week, later clarifying his remarks on his Twitter account. The organization on Thursday released a statement and announced an upcoming Inclusion Summit to be held in Arkansas. According to the statement (attached below), Specialized Bicycles, Canyon Bicycles, Allied Cycle Works, and Experience Fayetteville (a regional tourism and convention group) all plan to participate. On Friday a USA Cycling representative told BRAIN that other groups may also participate:

"Specialized, Canyon, and Allied are the very first to agree to be a part of a larger coalition which will include members of the LGBTQIA+ community to help bring about change in jurisdictions that we all recognize as implementing discriminatory legislation which is particularly harmful to children and adolescents. Since announcing this coalition yesterday, and having it taking place on turf where all this began, we’ve had a number of especially prominent organizations and members of the LGBTQIA+ reach out to see how they can be included or assist in some way. We are just now laying the groundwork for specific plans of action which will be determined at the Inclusion Summit in Fayetteville, and we invite industry partners, NGBs, and concerned individuals to join us: there is strength in numbers, and even greater strength in diversity of those numbers."

Brook Watts

Longtime cyclocross race promotor Brook Watts is the organizer of two major 'cross races to be held in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in the next 12 months: A UCI World Cup this fall and the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in January 2022. Watts posted a statement about the Arkansas legislation on his Twitter page on March 26. Watts told BRAIN he would have no further comment for the time being. 

US Cup

The US CUP mountain bike race series will host two weekends of UCI-sanctioned races in Arkansas this month. US Cup director Ty Kady released >a statement reporting that the event's medical staff has made clear that no race participant will be denied medical care, and said the race series will make a donation to NWA Equality, a local LBGTQ group.>>>


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