RAGBRAI staff announces resignation, new ‘Iowa Ride’

The popular, annual RAGBRAI event staff announced their resignation across the board on Tuesday, following a disagreement with its parent companies on the offensive tweets by Carson King.


Katina Zentz

Bikes lean against each other outside of Big Grove Brewery during RAGBRAI on July 27, 2018. Riders rode from Sigourney to Iowa City on Day 6 of this year’s event. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Katie Ann McCarver, News Editor

The entire RAGBRAI staff announced their resignation on Tuesday when former director T.J. Juskiewicz released a statement on social media that cited grievances with the annual bike ride across Iowa’s parent companies. However, the team will host an “Iowa Ride” in summer 2020, the same week as RAGBRAI.

Juskiewicz claimed in the statement that his organization was advised against comment when the Des Moines Register received backlash last month for a story highlighting racist 2011 tweets by ‘Iowa Legend’ Carson King, who recently donated an approximate $3 million to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

“In the past few weeks, my efforts to communicate with our loyal riders has been consistently blocked as it did not mesh with the company’s PR narrative to spin the Carson King embarrassment,” Juskiewicz stated.

The staff that resigned Tuesday is committed to the enjoyment of RAGBRAI participants, Juskiewicz said, and will therefore host a new “Iowa’s Ride” in July 2020, across Northern Iowa. Proceeds will go to Iowa charities, including the UI Children’s Hospital, the statement read.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my team,” Juskiewicz said.

Although the Register and Gannett, the mass media company that owns the Register, promise to “uphold First Amendment principles,” Juskiewicz said, he was not allowed to speak on the subject of Carson King and his offensive tweets when the RAGBRAI Nation, or loyal riders, began asking questions.

Since Juskiewicz’s start at RAGBRAI in 2003, he said transparency has led to an earned trust between him and faithful bikers. However, several questions about RAGBRAI’s relation to the Register and its own perspective on Carson King have gone unanswered so the Register could “save face,” Juskiewicz said.

In her own statement on Sept. 24, Register Executive Director Carol Hunter said that King’s tweets were indeed included in a profile about him intentionally, but the newspaper did not break the story — in fact, King held a press conference to express remorse about the tweets beforehand.

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“Reasonable people can look at the same set of facts and disagree on what merits publication,” Hunter said in the statement. “But rest assured such decisions are not made lightly and are rooted in what we perceive as the public good.”

Juskiewicz claimed Tuesday that he did not want RAGBRAI to back this statement and was forced to run any public comment through a public relations firm.

“For the first time in 16 years, the RAGBRAI director and staff [were] no longer calling the shots,” Juskiewicz said. “Senior leadership and a PR team would approve public statements.”

Before King’s fundraising efforts came to a close last month, RAGBRAI announced that it would donate $50,000 to the UI Children’s Hospital on social media. Juskiewicz said this action led to more questions about RAGBRAI’s affiliation with the Register — questions the parent company allegedly told him not to answer.

“I can no longer be an effective leader when my principles are compromised by the leadership of Gannett/Des Moines Register,” Juskiewicz said.