Spartan Arabia cuts ties with founder after remarks on Gaza crisis

Members of the community say the founder's remarks supporting Israel's latest offensive in the region do not align with their values

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Wed 6 Dec 2023, 4:58 PM

Last updated: Thu 7 Dec 2023, 9:41 PM

Adventure enthusiasts and participants in the UAE have welcomed Spartan Arabia’s move to cut ties with its parent company over remarks by the company founder on the situation in Gaza. Spartan Arabia has also cancelled an upcoming race scheduled for January.

“I am sure it was not an easy decision to make but it was the right decision,” said obstacle course race (OCR) enthusiast Tania Lolla. “The recent comments by Spartan founder Joe De Sena does not align with my beliefs, or the beliefs of the Spartan community. I don’t think sport and politics should be mixed.”

Another Spartan racer Husam Mohamed said it was a wise decision. “Through this decision, Spartan Arabia has stood with humanity,” he said. “I am already missing it because Spartan was not a race. It was building a community. It was about people coming together to motivate each other. I think and hope that Spartan Arabia will rebrand to produce a regional race.”

Husam Mohamed
Husam Mohamed

Founder and CEO of Spartan, De Sena caused outrage when he posted a video supporting Israel in their latest offensive against Gaza. In the video which has since been deleted, he called on the Spartan community to “stand with our allies” and to “respond when evil steps in”.

Since then, the OCR athlete community in the region have called for a boycott of the brand. Spartan Arabia had initially distanced itself from the comment before announcing its dissociation from the parent brand on Tuesday.

"For the past 10 years, we have represented the Spartan brand in the Middle East," the brand posted on Instagram. "Seeing that our core values do not align with the founder of Spartan Race, we have decided to not continue our relationship with the Spartan brand.

"To all our amazing racers, thank you for a decade filled with thrilling challenges, enduring friendships, and boundless love and respect. You'll for ever hold a special place in our hearts."

The company also announced the cancellation of their race in Khorfakkan that was scheduled to take place in January, saying that registered races will be refunded. According to some athletes, the brand’s trifecta race in Hatta on November 26 saw minimal participation.

The announcement was met with an outpouring of support online. “Woww! Utmost respect! About time to create an OCR arabia,” wrote Instagram user, Bernardo Alcachopas. Others chimed in with similar messages. “Sign me up for your first Warriors of Arabia race,” wrote Baraa El Gamal.

Time for new memories

An avid fan of Spartan, Tania first met her now-husband at one of their events in 2017. Since then, she has competed in their races even during her pregnancy. She said she will miss participating in them. “I will miss the Spartan race and the memories we made along the way,” she said. “I guess it is time to make new memories.”

She said should the Spartan Arabia team choose to rebrand, she would happily support it. “They have a great following and it is a great community,” she said. “If they rebrand and become make a regional OCR, I believe it will be a great success and I will definitely support it.”

On Friday, the three-day Spartan World Championship 2023 - which operates under a separate entity - will take place in Al Wathba in Abu Dhabi.

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