60,000 Reasons To Keep Your Season Going After Paris

By Paul Snyder

May 1, 2024

Gabby Thomas (two-time Olympic medalist) and Alexis Ohanian (Serena Williams’s husband & Reddit co-founder) have announced they’ll be hosting a new women’s-only meet this September, called the 776 Invitational. 

If you’re reading this newsletter, then you already know that the “product” in question – elite women’s athletics – is of incredibly high quality. And you also probably know what the issues are: outside of the Olympics, our sport has had a tough time packaging itself for successful mass consumption, and women’s sports have historically been given a fraction of the attention that the fellas get. 

The prize money involved should help entice the stars from the Olympics – who will still be fresh on casual fans’ minds at that point – to keep their seasons going. It makes the Diamond League’s look like peanuts: 776 will pay $60,000 to event winners, $25,000 to runners-up, and $10,000 to third-placers, compared to the DL at $10,000, $6,000, and $3,500, respectively. Those are the types of prize purses necessary to get top-tier athletes interested in your brand-new meet, especially as they’re still in the throes of the post-Olympics hangover.

The 5th Avenue Mile (another end-of-the-season production where athletes are often trying to hang onto championship fitness) pulls some of the biggest middle distance names in the world dangling a much smaller monetary carrot. And for better or worse, there’s no expectation 776 competitors will have to sing karaoke after.

At least for now, the meet will be track-only, so field event athletes hoping to make a dent on some student loans or their car payments are out of luck. The official Lap Count position has long been that condensing a track meet into a standard sportscast TV window necessarily means cutting down events, but it’s a shame that jumps, throws, and vaults always seem to be the first on the chopping block. And it’s honestly a bit of a missed opportunity for the 776 organizers that popular, marketable athletes like Tara Davis-Woodhall and Katie Moon won’t be making an appearance, but hopefully this year’s success will be parlayed into an expanded format next time around. Give it a shot in its first iteration, folks!

Historically, legacy events like the Penn Relays have no issue attracting fans and making money, but startup meets and leagues can struggle to get a foothold. But 776 has two key advantages: a partnership with a big star who is an actively competing athlete and a thoughtful advocate for growing the sport, and a co-organizer who, well… is enthusiastic and filthy stinkin’ rich.

Even with smarts and passion, elevating women in sports’ male-dominated attention economy is an uphill battle. Sometimes you also need to throw a whole lot of money at the situation. If you buy a spotlight bright enough, the world has no choice but to take notice. And it doesn’t hurt to be Serena Williams’s husband and a major advocate for women’s sports, when it comes to getting press attention for your track & field venture.

Paul Snyder

Meme-disparager, avid jogger, MS Paint artist, friend of Scott Olberding, Citius Mag staff writer based in Flagstaff. Supplying baseless opinions, lukewarm takes, and vaguely running-related content. Once witnessed televison's Michael Rapaport cut a line of 30 people to get a slice of pizza at John's on Bleeker at 4am. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @DanielDingus.