IOWA — The organizers of RAGBRAI announced they are resigning and starting a new bike ride across Iowa in 2020, and it’s scheduled to happen the same week as RAGBRAI.
Former RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz made the announcement on Tuesday. He said his team’s resignation is tied with how the Des Moines Register and Gannett handled the Carson King story. The story published by the Des Moines Register mentioned that past tweets made by King were racist. The Des Moines Register received backlash from the story and RAGBRAI ended up donating $50,000 to King’s fundraiser for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Juskiewicz said the Register’s parent group, Gannett, refused to let him speak about the handling of that story.
Juskiewicz explained the resignation in a statement:
“This is a bittersweet day for me and my team. Today, your RAGBRAI Director for the past 16 years and the entire RAGBRAI staff has resigned.
RAGBRAI’s parent companies (Des Moines Register & Gannett/USA Today) claim “we will uphold First Amendment principles”, but they refused to offer me that same opportunity to openly speak to the RAGBRAI Nation and answer the hundreds of passionate questions asked about the future of RAGBRAI following the Des Moines Register’s handling of the Carson King story.
I have always been totally transparent with the RAGBRAI Nation and have earned their trust since my first day in 2003. In these past few weeks, my efforts to communicate with our loyal riders has been consistently blocked as it did not mesh with the company’s PR narrative to spin the Carson King embarrassment. There are hundreds of questions that have been left unanswered in an attempt to save face for the Register, without regard to how it affects RAGBRAI.
I was informed, “Leadership and our PR professionals are in agreement that we don’t want to issue any more public statements on this matter — it is largely dying down publicly, and they see no advantage to re-igniting it at this point.” And then added, “glad to work with you on talking points for interviews regarding RAGBRAI if the Carson King situation comes up.”
So, after 16 great years of service, I was effectively hushed and offered talking points to deal with a mess that had nothing to do with RAGBRAI!
I can no longer be an effective leader when my principles are compromised by the leadership of Gannett/Des Moines Register. If we balked this time, I couldn’t image any future thoughts of making decisions in the best interest of YOU the riders and the great state of Iowa.
So, the entire RAGBRAI staff resigned today.
I promised my mentor Jim (Greenie) Green that I would maintain this great ride across Iowa. I also made that pledge to the late wagon master Don Benson and 89-year-old co-founder John Karras.
You will see this team that just resigned resurface in the near future. So stay tuned!
Thank you for trusting us with the GREAT RIDE!”
The former RAGBRAI team’s new bike ride across the state is called Iowa’s Ride.
“Iowa’s Ride is the ultimate cycling experience, a seven-day bicycle ride full of the great Iowa hospitality! The ride will visit small towns and welcoming communities across the great state of Iowa,” the event’s website said.
According to the website, Iowa’s Ride will begin in western Iowa on July 19, 2020 and travel across northern Iowa before finishing at a town along the Mississippi River on July 25. Those are the same dates as next year’s RAGBRAI.
The exact route will be announced in November 2019.
Organizers said half the proceeds in 2020 will be donated to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, and the remaining funds will be given to charities in each of the host communities.
The Des Moines Register announced RAGBRAI will continue next year, despite the staff resignations.
Company officials say RAGBRAI isn't going anywhere.
"We're proud of the good RAGBRAI has done for the state since 1973." https://t.co/OYbxM4reoB
— Des Moines Register (@DMRegister) October 15, 2019