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Michael Johnson: How The Olympic Champion Is Building A League To Help Athletes Commercialize Acts

BY Abena Dzaka March 3, 2024 10:00 AM EDT
Photo Credit: Facebook @Michael Johnson

Olympic champion Michael Johnson is launching a new track league to assist athletes in commercializing their rights and gain greater recognition and financial gain in a sport that faces declines in popularity between Olympic cycles.

Johnson, who became well-known in the 1990s for breaking world records in the 200 and 400 meters track races, has since stopped competing professionally and is now a commentator for the BBC in Britain.

The former Olympian is making a different kind of comeback in the sports world as he intends to start the league.

He has long been critical of the way the sport is administered and has suggested that the best way to promote the track would be through a business venture similar to the one he is starting. 

He said he is teaming up with the Winners Alliance, a group best known as a for-profit arm of the five-year-old Professional Tennis Players Association, to “build a professional, truly fan-focused league that will unlock commercial value for the best track and field athletes in the world.” 

One of its main missions is to increase the attention that track and field athletes receive in the U.S. beyond the Olympics and make it more accessible to fans. To do so, the firm plans to promote them on a wider scale via a new entertainment platform.

“I love this sport and owe everything I have to this sport,” expressed Johnson according to a report on Sportico. “It’s been a shame for me to watch it over the last couple decades since I retired and not be able to continue to provide the same amazing moments to people, outside of just the Olympics,” Michael Johnson said.

He added, “The track has been such a big part of my life, and I’m in a position to help this sport get back to where it should be.”

Johnson and Winners Alliance intend to use it as a platform to allow track and field athletes to make money off of their intellectual property. With its seven-figure investment, Winners Alliance hopes to make the project “the single largest investment in track and field history.”

Winners Alliance President Eric Winston stated, “I don’t think anyone [up until now] has tried to show the essence of the sport and really put the athletes front and center. Athletes are the main event; it’s not just track. The NFL, which has always been a team-driven league, has also made an effort to place its players front and center, following the lead of the NBA”.

Expected to debut in 2025, the upcoming track and field league is reaching out to possible sponsors, investors, and media partners.