Cycle News is reporting that Kenny Roberts Sr., the Godfather of American Road Racing, is leaving the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, after getting wind that Dave Despain and Dick Mann had made similar gestures regarding their status with the Hall of Fame. The blowout comes after Derek “Nobby” Clark was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, only to have his name withdrawn from the organization’s list of distinguished members. The reason given by the AMA was that there was an error in the balloting process for submitting Clark’s name to the voting ballot, though some outside the AMA say the reason Clark was removed was because of his criminal record, or for other reasons.
Working on the race bikes of motorcycling greats like Kenny Roberts Sr., Giacomo Agostini, and Mike Hailwood, the support for Clark has been resounding in the old-guard of American motorcycling, which is where the resignations from Despain and Mann come into play. This of course has created a cascade effect, where now King Kenny has also voiced his desire to leave the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Others are sure to follow suit with King Kenny after the delicious quote he gave Cycle News: “I just emailed Chris Carter and asked him where I send my shit back. I don’t get it. If Dick Mann is resigning from the Hall of Fame, I don’t need to be in it. It’s bad that it has to come to this, but what are you going to do. If Nobby doesn’t deserve to be in there, nobody does.”
Like everything with the AMA, the issue with inducting Clark into the Hall of Fame is a convoluted one at best, as it shows an interesting dynamic to the old-boy network that is alive and well within the American motorcycle community. On the issue at hand, Roadracing World published an interesting play-by-play of what happened behind the scenes regarding Nobby’s induction, balloting, and removal, which included some quotes from Superbikeplanet‘s Dean Adams.
Adams, who sits on the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame’s Roadrace Committee, has his own interesting dissection of what transpired, which includes his own analysis of the movings and shakings inside the AMA and the AMA Hall of Fame. It paints a disturbing picture of either wanton or willful negligence as to how the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame operates, as well as how the inner-cliques of the industry work with and against each other.
Depending on what side of the fence you sit on regarding Nobby’s place in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the situation may strike you differently. However, there are a few universal takeaways from the situation, namely that the AMA, and its various entities, continues to act like a real-life version of Lord of the Flies – I am still not certain to this day what this organization does, if anything.
It certainly sounds like the manner that Clark, and likely many other Hall of Famers, was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame was at the very least without proper process, or at the very worst, downright unethical. And it should shock no one that the AMA, like any large organization, has its factions of parties and cliques of cool kids. Lastly, it is not a surprise that the AMA’s handling of the situation lacked anything remotely close to what could be described as finesse — even if the organization acted correctly in rescinding Clark’s induction to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
From where I sit, it is unsurprising that the publications leading the charge on the issue, and doing the heavy journalistic lifting (kudos to them by the way,) are the stalwart publications of the old-guard in American motorcycling — it just seems that the industry can’t but help show its age when it comes to issues like this, and then act accordingly.
As a newcomer to the motorcycle industry (and by definition an outsider), I have had only just a passing interest in the whole story as it has unfolded over the course of this week, as many of the men involved in this story made their names and had their careers well before I was even born (I can’t even begin to comment on the validity of the arguments of whom should be in the Hall of Fame, and who shouldn’t be).
Maybe I should have a better understanding regarding the history of American road racing as it existed before I did, but then again the sport the way it was back then looks nothing like how it does today, both from a technical and sociological perspective. It is just s shame that the old guard hasn’t realized the level of change that has occurred around them as well, and changed with the times accordingly.
While more learned players will debate the finer merits of what is going on here with Nobby Clark, I can’t help but wonder about how many younger riders are being disenfranchised by the whole debacle that is still unfolding. We may not know the names, or even really care about the actors involved, but we can see plain as day that the AMA, and American motorcycling as an institution, has serious issues internally and externally.
If you ever want to know why the motorcycle industry is having a hard time finding fresh meat for the grinder, here is a great example why rider demographics in the 20-40 age bracket continue to struggle. It’s not our cause, it’s not our fight, and some might just make it not our sport.