It has been a reflective, busy, and productive past few weeks out here in Gravel City, USA. This opportunity has moved our team to tackle new challenges. Even with all the obstacles, it has also been intense and exciting. We are continuing to learn and grow, and we fully understand that this journey is not over. We’d like to share where we are currently in the process of rebranding and moving forward.
Name Change Status
We’ve had many internal meetings over the past several weeks. We’ve also engaged with many from the gravel and local communities – speaking with athletes, community members, volunteers, and partners. Hours on the phone have been insightful and helpful. A survey on our way forward was shared with and answered by over 50 members of our community. Through this, we’ve brought together a task force composed of Emporia cycling leaders, Emporia business and tourism leaders, the Emporia-based UNBOUND team, members of the cycling media, a past champ, a two-time podium finisher, and internal Life Time brand and marketing leaders. Branding and naming a new event takes a lot of work; rebranding and renaming something that carries 15 years of history with national and international engagement along with local Kansas pride is way more difficult than we could have imagined.
As of today, we have made really great progress. While we do not have our new name 100% settled on, we are close. We have agreed on a new color palette and are extremely close on our logo icon. Now it’s just to settle on the name…
Kaw Nation Update
After a few calls with Chairperson Lynn Williams, our local team established an in-person meeting with the Tribal Council. On July 22nd, Kristi, LeLan, Treva and Michelle made the trip to visit with members of the Tribal Council of the Kaw Nation at their headquarters in Kaw City, OK. We headed down with hopes of creating a working relationship and an offer extended for them to join the name change task force. We had a very productive conversation with three members of their tribal council. For the four of us, it was our first time engaging with the tribe and having that opportunity to meet them. Learning more about their growth, history and priorities was extremely educational.
During this meeting, we learned more in-depth of the struggles the Kaw Tribe has endured. We also heard first-hand that as the controversy and adversity over our event name has grown and become even more contentious and divisive, they too have seen a growth in members of the tribe speaking out about the UNBOUND’s event name and expressing a desire to have the name changed. As the council has listened to their membership, they have respectfully asked for us to move forward without a connection to their tribe.
In our effort of remaining transparent, our team was initially upset and defeated with this decision. We entered that meeting feeling like maintaining a positive and honorable connection made the most sense for us. But after taking time to reflect, we have a deeper sense of understanding and grace for their decision. The name was never meant to cause hurt, but we fully understand how it does. 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 mean 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. Please read their official statement here:
As we continue our way forward, there is no doubt that we will continue learning and understanding the history of this land. This rebrand is the end of a chapter for us as the UNBOUND, but it will never take away from the Kanza history of the land on which we ride. We hope that each time you touch these gravel roads in the Flint Hills, you take a moment to remember what has been, and channel the admirable traits of the Kaw – strong, determined, perseverant.
DEI Coalition Status
Today we can share that our goals for our DEI efforts are to provide access and education for ALL individuals. Initially, start lines won’t be our primary focus. We will focus on simply impacting the most people we can to grow the number of underserved and underrepresented people on bikes and trails and roads. We know that there is a journey for a rider or runner to a start line, and we’re excited to equip more people with the first steps in their journey.
Life Time is an organization which produces not just the UNBOUND, but 31 events across the country. Our impact and ability to emit change in the event industry as a whole is huge and we recognize that’s a huge opportunity we aren’t letting pass.
We have vowed to report on our actions and not just our desires. As events come back to life following this hiatus and our efforts for increased representation across BIPOC, LGBTQ+, gender-focused and para groups begin to be executed, we will continue to report on those actions.
For those of you that have been pitching in and providing feedback so far – thank you. The constructive criticism and the words of encouragement are helping on this journey. We appreciate your grace and support in helping us stay on track. It’s also amazing to know that there is so much encouragement out there for each of us to do better and be better!
Stay safe and well – and ride on! LeLan, Kristi, Treva, and Michelle