When I asked a co-worker if I had kicked a hornet's nest by stating my controversial opinion about Red Bull Rampage so publicly, he responded: "You kicked it, then ran over it, then filmed it and put it all online." I nearly wet my pants.

Just over a week ago I wrote a very pointed piece criticizing Red Bull for some unfortunate events that transpired at this year's Rampage, shining light on some important questions and concerns, and pointing out the need for change industry wide. Needless to say, it ruffled some feathers. Lacy Kemp's article did too, and more followed.

There has been an overwhelming response, and I've since been inundated with thoughts, ideas, words of caution, praise, and even some hate - so much so that it's been hard to concentrate on other tasks. Pro riders and their families, Rampage diggers, industry reps and sponsors, mountain bike media, journalists from major news outlets and other industries, big time athletes from various action sports, Vital MTB members, and long lost friends have all expressed their opinions. In general the response has been very positive, although some weren't afraid to call me out.

I've since learned that the solution isn't black and white. This is going to take time, but the ball is now very much in motion, and I think we're all pulling for the same thing.

Incredible Support for Paul

Most importantly, the article and the uproar that resulted appear to have raised awareness about Paul Basagoitia's long road to recovery and ways to help. He sustained a major spine injury at the 2015 Red Bull Rampage when things got out of control during the run of his life. (You truly were on a great one, Paul!)

Thanks to many generous donors, Paul's recovery fund currently sits at close to $45,000 (!!) and the number is still rising. When news of the fund being established went online, the Road2Recovery site actually received so much traffic that it couldn't keep up. That is so, so, so awesome! Good work, team. Please keep that very much needed, tangible form of support coming.

Companies are literally handing donation baskets around the office in support of Paul. YT is auctioning four custom Rampage frames with the proceeds going to his recovery fund. I've even heard stories of friends getting into donation bidding wars. Riders are rallying in support. The list goes on and on.

Paul's personal sponsors are also pitching in, helping to ensure that he's well taken care of. Zack Vestal of Scott Sports, Paul's largest sponsor, informed me that Scott will stand behind him as he recovers. "First and foremost," Zack said, "we're going to stand by Paul. He's been written into a three year contract. This is his first year, and basically his injury doesn't change anything. We're sticking by him as a sponsor, because we value Paul not just for his athletic endeavors, but his personality, his contribution to the sport, and he's just a guy that we want riding our bikes and affiliated with our brand as a person."

Scott will also be arranging a few great auctions in the near future, in addition to providing support behind the scenes. Race Face has reached out to offer a helping hand with whatever Paul needs, now or later. With some assistance from Greg Watts, FOX will be donating a sizable contribution toward the recovery fund, and is also keeping him on their rider roster for the coming year.

It's inspiring to know that we're part of a phenomenal community that truly have each other's backs, and Paul promises to thank each and every one of you in the future:

Thank you all for the support. I promise I will get around to thanking you all individually, but right now I'm taking baby steps to get back on my feet.

Posted by Paul Basagoitia onThursday, October 22, 2015

​It's hard not to get teary-eyed watching Paul fight to heal, but know that he is making good progress and truly appreciates your support.

Red Bull Responds

On Wednesday I received a call from a Red Bull Communications Representative. Red Bull didn't want to dispute any claims in the original article, but instead wanted to address a few big questions: What is Red Bull doing to support Paul? How will Rampage be different next year?

"We have a representative that's there with Paul in Utah as we speak, determining Paul's needs, trying to figure out what is his current prognoses, and how Red Bull can best support him on his road to recovery," Red Bull said. "That will continue to evolve in the coming days and weeks."

Due to company policy you'll never see a published list of exactly how they are helping Paul, but the company is helping to determine the best path forward given their extensive resources. Paul has the right to tell us exactly how they are helping in the future.

Since my conversation with Red Bull I've learned that there was an internal struggle to make it happen, but know that it is happening, and that's what matters.

They're Listening to the Riders

What about the event moving forward? For those worried, it doesn't sound as though they are even considering cancelling Rampage. Instead they are looking to improve things for the riders by allowing them the chance to speak up and be heard.

Red Bull informed me, "Just like we do every year, we're going to sit down with the riders - I think this year we'll do it in a more formal manner and bring those guys together - and then really hear what their ideas are, what their concerns are. We'll just have that dialog face to face, and then work on a plan over the course of the next 12 months and determine what we want to do prior to next year."

From the sounds of things, Red Bull will bring several riders to a central meeting location in the coming months to work on understanding perspectives and needs, evaluate what's actually possible, and try to turn Rampage into something that's more mutually beneficial for both parties.

"We're going to be taking more efforts, even more so than in past years," Red Bull said, "to definitely take in rider feedback and determine just what they want to do and what we want to do in terms of future events." They continued, "As in any case, there's that middle ground there. Okay, what's going to work best for everybody that balances all that out? People essentially will feel very comfortable moving forward."

So Red Bull is listening. That's awesome. Now it's up to the riders to state their needs and to hold Red Bull accountable, but also to understand the limits of hosting an event like that. It will take compromise, but there is a solution. I think we may all be a bit surprised at how the event morphs over the coming year, and I trust it will be for the better.

When I let a handful of riders know about the meeting plans, they all seemed a bit surprised and encouraged. Cam Zink let me know that one of his top priorities is to form a rider's union in the near future, and "Rampage will be the first thing to be addressed."

Miscommunication at Rampage

As you might imagine, it took a lot of restraint to not grill Red Bull with a list of heated questions and concerns I had prepared in advance of our phone call, but it was not the time. I did, however, take the opportunity to ask why the public was given the impression that Paul was okay, when we all now know that was far from the truth.

"For any event that we have, we have a crises communication plan that we look at, and there's a protocol whether it's for what do we do with the athlete, how do we support him," Red Bull said. The representative went on to list a number of ways Red Bull attempted to help immediately following the crash.

"And there's things that we have a protocol on in terms of live stream, on-site announcers, and how all that works. It definitely seems like somewhere in the process there was a breakdown in information, in terms of whatever information that was provided to the announcers, via our team or through hearsay, or friends, or whatever that was. I know that our team, at least the people that I've talked to, didn't tell the announcers to say that he was okay, and I know that's a huge point of contention," Red Bull continued.

The Red Bull representative went on to say that he also heard an announcement over the on site PA system saying Paul was okay not long after being transported to a nearby hospital by a medical evac helicopter.

"We certainly recognize that there was a mistake in that process. That was not at all trying to hide something under the rug in terms of the crowd, the riders, anything like that. I think it was a simple language miscommunication... We're going to have a regroup on that stuff this next week. It was obviously not at all any sort of intention to hide things in terms of Paul's condition."

The representative said Red Bull's protocol dictates that they are "only allowed to state facts." He also said, "We didn't have information really, until later that evening, when they were going to take him into surgery. Outside of that all we were able to provide is sort of a very generic and blank statement, talking about how Paul's been transported to the hospital for further evaluation. Nothing really more and nothing really less. But we're definitely aware that that was a problem, and something we're going to look at in terms of how we talk about our communication and work flow on site when a situation like that occurs."

I later spoke with Cam McCaul, a good friend of Paul who was announcing the event on the live web stream. Cam said he and commentator Pat Parnell were "handed a piece of paper with an update on Paul that said he had regained consciousness and something about his leg, but I knew he was never unconscious."

"It definitely didn't say anything like they spine boarded him because he can't feel his legs, and that's why they rushed him out on a helicopter... We just basically read off the paper, and we have no way of knowing if he is or isn't okay," Cam said.

UPDATE: In a conversation following the publish date of this article, we were informed of some new information by one of the on site announcers, who stated: "We [Aaron Chase, Brad Jay, Brian Lopes, and Richie Schley] were all sitting around together, when one of the main Red Bull ladies came directly to us - and I think we were one of the first to be notified anything - and she said straight to me, and the word was, 'He's okay. He's being airlifted to Saint George for evaluation of his legs.' "

The announcer then confirmed the information for a second time before repeating the Red Bull official's words via the on-site microphone system to the public.

While we may never know the reason why it was said or assumed that Paul was okay, Cam also indicated that he didn't believe there was malicious intent anywhere, or that a positive update was given to keep viewer numbers up. From all accounts we've heard, it does indeed sound like a case of miscommunication. It's easy to understand how quickly positive news about a downed rider can spread. We all hope for the best.

Paul's First Steps!

Paul is now in a rehab facility and continues to make progress. He is able to feel more and more of his legs little by little, and he very recently took his first steps following the accident! He's determined to improve each day.

So amazing to see Paul standing and making those legs move!! Makin progress one step at a time.

Posted by KC Deane onTuesday, October 27, 2015

​Paul's girlfriend, Nichole Munk, recently started the irideforpaul.com blog as a way of showing his progress. In it, she writes:

"Tasks that were once easy are more of a challenge these days. Everything is a process. The therapists are teaching him ways to utilize the muscles he has to help him walk... Each day is a blessing."

"He has incredible drive. His days spent here will be some of the most challenging seconds, minutes, hours, days of his life. Please pray for Paul's ability to do something that frightens him and overcome it like the amazing person we all know he is."

That smile says it all. Keep going, Paul!

Moving Forward

Now that Paul is in stable condition and beginning his recovery doesn't mean we should go back to the way things were. Don't forget the bigger picture.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of this is that it got everyone talking. People from all facets of the sport chimed in with passionate responses, indicating that this topic has been at the back of everyone's minds for quite some time.

Last week key members of hundreds of bike companies met in Taiwan for Taichung Bike Week, and many of them discussed the article, its implications, and began to look at things in a new light. "How do we make things better for our Pro riders? What can we do to ensure that they're covered in an accident? That they're safe?"

So to you, companies, I encourage you to continue to consider the risks and challenges your riders face. Ask them if they're covered should things go wrong and to what extent. Offer to help with coverage if possible, especially if you know it's part of their job for you. Give them time to heal without putting their contracts at risk. Engage with them, listen to their feedback, and by all means help make them rockstars. That's why you hired them in the first place.

Red Bull, don't back pedal. Don't abuse the talent. Treat them for what they're worth. Take steps to make things safer where you reasonably can. Listen to the riders, be open to new ideas, and I promise they'll put on one hell of a good show given the right opportunity and conditions. Continue to foster good relationships with our industry.

Riders, stand up and be heard. The ball is in your court. You're all experienced, you know what works and what doesn't, so come to that meeting with a unified plan that you all agree on. Show Red Bull evidence of how it can be done better by referencing success in other events, and don't fight each other over the small details. Most of all, know your worth. If it comes to it, know that your absence from the event will be noticed. You're all heroes, you're all awesome, and you deserve to make a good living. Continue to show your value, and keep striving to earn respect in everything you do. This is your business.

As for the media, we'll do our best to speak up when things aren't right, to ask the important questions, and to support everyone in their endeavors to make this sport awesome. Turns out the media has been speaking of this for a long time, unfortunately it had to come with Paul's injury for many of us to really listen.

Keep the conversation alive.

- Brandon Turman


UPDATE: June 23, 2016 - Red Bull Announces Several Changes to Rampage for 2016

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