Entire RAGBRAI staff resigns over Register’s handling of Carson King story

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KTIV) – A rift over the Des Moines Register’s handling of the Carson King story has led to the resignation of the entire staff of the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa from the newspaper, effective immediately.

In a Tuesday post on RAGBRAI’s Facebook page, TJ Juskiewicz said the Register, “refused to offer me the 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.”

Juskiewicz said his efforts to communicate with riders were blocked because “it did not mesh with the company’s PR narrative to spin the Carson King embarrassment.”

Juskiewicz says he was told the Register’s leadership, and public relations professionals “don’t want to issue any more public statements on this matter”.

But, Juskiewicz said the Register offered him “talking points for interviews regarding RAGBRAI if the Carson King situation comes up.”

So, 16-years after taking the job as RAGBRAI’s executive director, Juskiewicz, and his staff resigned.

“I can no longer be an effective leader when my principles are compromised by the leadership of Gannett/Des Moines Register,” said Juskiewicz

RAGBRAI was founded in 1973 by John Karras and Donald Kaul.

The seven-day, cross-state bicycle ride across Iowa is the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world.

According to the RAGBRAI Facebook page, the ride will continue in 2020, it will take place from July 19th through the 25th.

The route has not been announced.

On Tuesday afternoon, a website for a new cross-state ride appeared.

It’s called “Iowa’s Ride” and will be spearheaded by TJ Juskiewicz.

The new ride is to take place the same week as RAGBRAI in July of 2020 and will be in northern Iowa.

The exact route is to be announced next month.

To see the new “Iowa’s Ride” website, click here.

The split between RAGBRAI’s leadership team, and the Des Moines Register, grew out of the newspaper’s coverage of the King story.

King is the Iowa State fan who raised more $3-million for the University of Iowa’s Stead Children’s Hospital off of a sign asking for beer money before this year’s Iowa-Iowa State football game.

Doing a profile story on King, a Des Moines Register reporter dug up some 8-year-old social media posts, from King, that were offensive.

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of the beer King wanted to buy, announced it had cut all ties with King, but still agreed to honor its donation to the children’s hospital.

King apologized for the tweets that were quoting the comedy show “Tosh.O”.

The RAGBRAI statement from Facebook:

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!

Sincerely,

TJ Juskiewicz,
RAGBRAI Director

Matt Breen

Matt Breen

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