Canyon // SRAM employ diversity and inclusivity expert

It’s been a rollercoaster few months for Canyon//SRAM, igniting peoples timelines by announcing their signing of the young American, Chloé Dygert on the 10th of November. A massive high met with a crashing low when it was very quickly pointed out Chloé’s social media activity and ‘liking’ of certain racial, homophobic, transphobic and degrading tweets.

Such tweets have now been ‘un-liked’ and Canyon//SRAM released a press statement which then subsequently had to be reworded and re-released. Dygert herself screen grabbing and releasing a statement on Twitter, apologising to anyone who “felt hurt” by her actions on social media.

Canyon//SRAM since then, have gone on to recruit another member to their team, Neve Bradbury, through the highly successful ZWIFT Academy which has brought about riders such as Leah Thorvilson, Tanja Erath, Ella Harris and Jessica Pratt.

As soon as the news broke of Canyon//SRAM signing Dygert social media erupted with what the former Time Trial World Champion had been up to on social media, forcing Canyon//SRAM to react. Shortly after the poorly worded first press release Canyon employed Christine Kalkschmid, on a three-year contract until the end of 2023, as their Diversity and Inclusivity expert. Team Manager and Sports Director of Canyon//SRAM, Ronny Lauke on the employment said “The recent discussions around the team made me aware that we have to improve further to be an inclusive and diverse team and for that we needed a specialist with experience in that field. I believe Christine is the perfect fit for this program.”

Continuing on why the team has employed Christine until 2023, Ronny said “The main reason the team does commit to the D&I program through 2023 is that our UCI WWT license is valid until then ((that’s also the length of the commitment from our naming partners CANYON and SRAM). This is the timeline I do have planning security for our team. The timeline is not dependent on riders coming in or leaving.”

Christine is a lawyer, with many years of experience as a manager and a professional sportswoman. After almost 20 years as a lawyer and in multinational corporations with positions of responsibility, most recently as Head of HR for Allianz Suisse, Christine has moved on from the Corporate World in order to devote more time to her heart’s desire – sport and health.

Both Canyon and Christine know that there is no overnight fix to the issue facing their team, but it is revolutionary that they are the first team in either the women’s World Tour peloton or the men’s who have such an expert. “Teaching diversity and inclusivity is not something which can be achieved in one two hour zoom call, it goes much further than that. It’s something which has to be taught and learned over a prolonged period of time. My goal is to make things right and that takes time, I don’t want to make things happen fast, that’s where mistakes are made.” Says Christine.

Kalkschmid has been working up plans and milestones for the team to hit before joining up with Canyon//SRAM at their first training camp from the 19th to the 29th of January 2021 where Canyon//SRAM will start implementing their training.

“I know Ronny wanted to address this issue full on and is fully committed to changing the team for the better, he wants a team which is fully functional and doesn’t want to just address surface level diversity but a deeper level, looking at personality and teamwork, also.”

It is Dygert, though, who still gains the headlines while on team Canyon//SRAM, her most recent controversial post being of a photography portrait she posted quoting Maya Angelou’s famous poem Still I Rise. Dygert seemingly blissfully unaware of the final two stanzas which demonstrate the struggle black people go through to rise above discrimination, abuse and social injustice which black people and people of colour face every day.

On this, “Ronny and I both spoke to Chloé, we spoke through why it was probably not appropriate and suggested that Chloé were to filter her social media activity through us before posting. However, she came to her own decision that she was no longer going to be active on Social Media. Chloé has to go through a period of learning and that has to show by more than social media posts. Chloé can’t make a further statement because, you have to ask, what has changed from then until now?” says Christine.

Diversity is not just about cancelling someone out because of their political beliefs as Christine says, “everyone has an opinion, it’s drawing a line between someone having an opinion which isn’t liked and an opinion which divides people.” Canyon//SRAM has further issues other than Dygert and her social media activities. There will be more challenges than just the Duygert situation with Canyon//SRAM and Christine to work through, the question most people want answered now is: How does a team – who thought it was diverse and inclusive, tested by Dygert and her actions – which is now the only team who is actively looking to improve its outlook make it inclusive for all its riders? Over to you Canyon//SRAM.

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