The New York Road Runners (NYRR) announced on Monday that the organization will part ways with CEO Michael Capiraso at the end of 2020. The decision comes after a wave of complaints from current and former NYRR employees shed light on the organization’s “toxic work culture,” racism and discrimination, and mismanagement under Capiraso. While Capiraso — who has been a member of the NYRR team for 10 years and served as CEO since 2015 — will retain his title until December 31, the role of interim CEO has been assigned to Kerin Hempel, the organization’s former vice president of strategy and planning.
Today we’ve announced a transition in leadership. Michael Capiraso will be departing from his position as CEO on Dec. 31. https://t.co/KpqTKMOI3i
— New York Road Runners (@nyrr) November 30, 2020
According to an article in the New York Times, NYRR officials have been looking into how their organization handles systemic racism and other forms of discrimination ever since the murder of George Floyd prompted protests and calls for change across the U.S. in May. In August, matters intensified when an anonymous group named RebuildNYRR penned a letter to the NYRR board of directors regarding their “profound concern with the trajectory” of the organization “under the current leadership of Michael Capiraso.” RebuildNYRR is made up of current and former employees, and they have also created an Instagram page where they post personal accounts of the company’s mismanagement.
In the letter, which calls for Capiraso’s removal, RebuildNYRR members write, “We are seeing an erosion of the very values we thought NYRR was built on. These values are replaced with a toxic, discriminatory and racist work culture that Mr. Capiraso continues to foster.” The letter goes on, noting that publicly outing Capiraso came as “a last resort” for the anonymous group following their many attempts to address these issues with NYRR management and human resources.
“There is a clear culture of White dominance ingrained throughout organizational practices,” the letter reads. “This is illustrated in documented staff accounts, sentiments of anti-Blackness and other micro-aggressive experiences of BIPOC staff.” There have allegedly been many accounts of “discrimination based on sex (including sexual harassment and workplace violence against women) and body type,” as well.
None of this was directly addressed in the NYRR press release announcing Capiraso’s dismissal, and George Hirsch, chairman of the NYRR board, is quoted as having only said, “the board of directors has listened to the concerns raised and recommendations offered by the community NYRR serves, including its employees and members of the broader running community. In order to achieve our mission to help and inspire people through running, we will recruit new leadership to the organization.” Hirsch’s quote concludes with a word of thanks to Capiraso for his 10 years of “contributions and dedication” to NYRR.