The Trump effect: Charlotte race canceled due to political backlash
A Charlotte triathlon was canceled after criticism regarding its connection to President Donald Trump forced organizers to change the race's name.
The event, originally called Tri at the Trump, was to be held at the Trump National Golf Club in Mooresville on Oct. 8.
"This decision did not come easily, but was the only choice we had in light of events that have occurred over the last week," a post on the event's Facebook page said. "We will continue to support our beneficiaries and their causes."
The Facebook post said everyone who signed up for the race will receive a full refund.
Race organizer Chuck McAllister changed the name to "Tri for Good," according to a statement on the event Facebook page after he received complaints over the summer about the name of the race. McAllister announced the name had been changed Thursday.
For the past four years, the venue has hosted the event to benefit cancer-fighting causes like the Isabella Santos Foundation — which focuses on neuroblastoma research, and the Hemby Children’s Hospital — a St. Jude Children's Research Hospital affiliate clinic.
“That was my goal from day one — to raise money and awareness and help some of these kids,” McAllister told The Daily Tar Heel.
McAllister said he was hoping to wait until after the 2017 race to change the event's name.
“I believe circumstances now make it unavoidable but to do it now," he said in the Facebook statement.
The circumstances McAllister refers to started during the 2016 election season. In the two races before the election, the triathlon had over 350 participants. After Trump began his campaign, numbers dropped.
“A lot of people didn’t want to sign up," McAllister said. "This year, it’s become more extreme with also a lot of belligerent types of writings and messages and stuff to myself from the left side of things about doing an event or not doing an event with anything with the Trump name in it.”
McAllister said he wanted to rebrand after the race, with his goal to make the announcement at the race itself and focus on moving forward with next year’s race. Then people on both ends of the political spectrum began to chime in on the event's Facebook page.
"I didn’t get into this for the politics,” he said.
McAllister said the political right now thinks he is weak and caving to the left.
"This is not about being political," he said. "At this point, I'm trying to toe the line and stay center — as center as I can."
James Stimson, a UNC political science professor, said in an email this “Trump effect” is not localized to this location or to North Carolina.
“To me, that is the expected effect," he said. "People who like Trump ... will want to patronize his businesses, and those who don’t, (won't).”
Stimson said some businesses will experience a secondary effect.
"They will avoid association with Trump properties to avoid controversy," he said. "I think it is too early to be confident of the ultimate net effect."
The Trump National Golf Club refused to comment on the race.
"When you’re doing things like this for your community and service, and things like that are good and helping others, that’s where you should draw the line," McAllister said. "You should remain neutral and be community-minded.”
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