|AHEARN CASE NEARLY RESULTED IN SPLIT
"Why Don't You Quit?" Query Of Men to Committee
Many Complaints Are Voiced by American Athletes
By John J. Hallahan
|ANTWERP, Aug. 15 (By Mail) Friday, Aug. 13, at Antwerp was
showdown day in American track and field athletics. The American Olympic Committee, of which Gustavus
Town Kirby is president, decided to punish Daniel F. Ahearn of the Illinois A. C. of Chicago for a breach of
the rules, as set down by it, preliminary to the Olympic championships. The A. O. C. declared the athlete
forfeited his membership of the American contingent because he stayed away from the schoolhouse on
Rue Onaden the night of Aug. 12. It appears that the holder of the world's record for the event had
remained away the night of Aug. 11, that he had been cautioned and told by the committee he must
remain at the quarters. In the face of what he was told, Ahearn did not comply with the wishes of the
committee. He stayed out, finding the quarters of Paddy Ryan, the hammer thrower, in the American
Hotel more agreeable and conductive to enabling him to get better sleep than at the schoolhouse,
where he had been quartered with nine other athletes, sleeping on cots.
Ahearn neither asked nor received permission to stay away from the schoolhouse. This is what the
committee members objected to. Ahearn had been before the committee the afternoon of Aug. 12,
and told he must not make his own rules. After staying away that night Ahearn was again called before
the committee. He told the members where he was. The committee sent for him the second time and
Ahearn refused to meet the members. The latter, headed by Pres. Kirby and Justice Barlow S. Weeks,
went into the schoolyard and asked Ahearn to come into the office.
|Ahearn Defies Committee|
|He did, and listened to various members of the committee, chiefly
Messrs. Kirby and Weeks. After hearing what he had to say, the athlete told them he would remain out
again that night, that he had a cold and needed to go to a Turkish bath. He told the committee he was
no longer a kid, that he knew how to train and the methods by which he could obtain the best results.
This was too much for the committee. Pres. Kirby told him he was dropped from the team. To the
correspondents accompanying the athletes Kirby said "Dan Ahearn has been dropped from the team.
He has been ordered to turn in his American Olympic uniform. He will be sent back to the United States
on the first transport." The decision was a big surprise, and naturally all the newspapermen got busy and
sent the news back home. As soon as Ahearn's pal, Paddy Ryan who was responsible for the Chicago
athlete staying out, heard of it, he told the athletes he would not compete for America if the committee
was to be permitted to carry through the decision.
The matter was talked over before the boys sat down to dinner Aug. 13, and a meeting of the members
of the team was called to take place after the meal. This was not needed. Pres. Kirby said he would speak
to the members of the team after they had supper. He was told not to do so, as the boys would show him
little consideration. Despite this Kirby accompanied by Judge Weeks went into the schoolyard. The former
mounted one of the benches, after the bugler had sounded assembly. The athletes gathered around him,
listened to his words, but waited anxiously until he told of the decision rendered against Ahearn. When he
concluded, finishing by telling of the need of discipline and other things essential to bring about victory, also
of the great United States, his words were met with dead silence. As soon as Kirby had finished, Judge
Weeks announced he had something to say. A snicker could be heard among the athletes. He went into
the Ahearn case at great length and said, "What would you boys think if the committee was to quit?" A
cheer went up and some one asked, "Why don't you?" The thing for which the athletes had been waiting
since they left New York was about to develop. Weeks told how he had been unable to get decent quarters
in Antwerp or on the boat and finally, after he had asked many questions of individual athletes, Norman
Ross, the swimmer and spokesman for the team, took his place on the bench.
|Food Criticised by Ross|
|He asked Judge Weeks how it was to be expected athletes could
get the best results when breakfast consisted of two small sardines, and things hardly up to keeping the
men in condition. Ross put many questions to Judge Weeks and the discussion resulted in many athletes
inquiring about this and that, which had not been provided for. Ross said, as spokesman for the team,
that he realized that Ahearn's attitude toward the committee had not been all the men could have wished,
but said the committee was too hasty in its action and had permitted other things to be done without the
men being censured. He asked Judge Weeks if he fully realized what it meant for an athlete to suffer such
a disgrace. Ross inquired what was to be done for the improvement of conditions and whether the men
were to be given better treatment on their return trip. Pres. Kirby also asked Ross some questions that
night he asked if a committee of the athletes could not arrange for a meeting with the Olympic committee.
This was done and they met the next morning with the result that Ahearn, who had refused to make the trip
to Stockholm as a member of the English team in 1912, was reinstated.
Pres. Kirby said that conditions would be improved and that the meals would he better. Ahearn, it may be
recalled, was invited by Great Britain to go to London in 1912 and start training for Stockholm. Ahearn
had not been a citizen of the United States at the time. The action of the athletes against the Olympic
committee was something new in the history of amateur athletics. The committee was made to realize
that the athletes were not to be treated as children and that they must be given the best, as are the
representatives of the other countries.
As soon as the committee rescinded its decision against Ahearn and had given the athletes the promise
of better food, the members of the team went about their work as if nothing happened, although it was
generally thought the men would hardly be able to give their best efforts after what they had gone through.
Some of the men wanted to break training and abandon all idea of competing in the games. With everything
righted, the men, as already stated, got busy and presented one of the largest collections of athletes at the
opening of the games Saturday, marching as if they had been born soldiers. The opening exercises at the
Stadium Saturday, Aug. 14, were attended by about l5,000, half filling the structure. No aggregation looked
better than the Americans. Harry Hebner, member of three Olympic teams, carried the standard, and
Patrick McDonald, the New York A. C. weight thrower, carried the colors, flanked on either side by
members of the Army and Navy. After them came Pres. Kirby, the officials, members of the Olympic
committee, Gen. Sage and the Army officers. Then came coaches, followed by Manager Mat Halpin
leading the athletes. The women swimmers, wearing white straw hats, flannel skirts, and blue coats,
led the athletes. The midshipmen and members of the Navy end of the team brought up the rear.
| The Boston Globe 27 August 1920|