The American Motorcycle Association has a full-blown meltdown on his hands concerning its Hall of Fame induction process, which is leading to some of the more high-profile names in the sport resigning their status as AMA Hall of Famers.
The versatile two-time AMA Grand National champion Dick Mann, the legendary Kenny Roberts, who was the first American to win a Grand Prix motorcycle championship and now longtime champion of the sport Dave Despain have resigned their status in the Hall, protesting the exclusion of renowned mechanic and tuner Nobby Clark.
More to the point, the AMA had announced that Clark was to be part of the 2012 Hall of Fame class, then rescinded its announcement due to what it called an ‘error in the nomination process’. But the move has infuriated some of the sport’s biggest names, who are throwing their support behind Clark.
What follows is the actual letter sent by Despain to the AMA, as displayed on www.speedtv.com.
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter and the enclosed medal commemorating my induction comprise my immediate resignation from the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. I expect my name and picture to be removed without delay from all Hall of Fame materials and representations.
I take this action in response to the Hall of Fame's unconscionable rescinding of the nomination of Nobby Clark, a motorcycling legend more than worthy of Hall of Fame membership. I believe we Hall of Famers have a special stake in the integrity of the institution and its nominating process. I have lost all faith in that process and, more importantly, in the individuals who apparently now control it.
I am deeply suspicious of media speculation that Clark's "criminal record" is somehow grounds for the withdrawal of his nomination but given the absence of any clear and official explanation from Hall of Fame officials, that apparently is the brush with which Nobby is to be tarred. This raises a couple obvious questions: What changed in the short time between the announcement and the rescinding of Clark's nomination and why would Clark's "criminal record" be grounds for a blackball when that clearly was not an issue for a number of previous inductees who also have criminal records.
I suspect the answers to these questions, if they were truly known, would do nothing to restore my faith in the integrity of the institution, but in the end my resignation does not turn on those answers. Instead it is based on a simple and inescapable conclusion: given everything Nobby Clark has accomplished in this sport, if he doesn't belong in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame then I sure as hell shouldn't be in there.
Also from Speedtv.com are these comments from Dick Mann and Kenny Roberts:
Dick Mann - "I was one of the original committee members involved in organizing the current Hall of Fame. Lately, I have watched this organization slide into mediocrity, apparently from the lack leadership and knowledge of the history of our sport. Due to Nobby Clark’s contributions to the sport of motorcycles, it is my opinion there is no one more deserving of being inducted in the HOF. Since that is not going to happen, I no longer want to be considered a part of the Hall of Fame."
Kenny Roberts - "I just got wind of it yesterday when somebody sent me something on Dave Despain resigning," Roberts said this morning from his home in Hickman, California. "And now I find out that Dick Mann has resigned. I just emailed Chris Carter and asked him where I send my shit back. I don't get it. If Dick Mann is resigning from the Hall of Fame, I don't need to be in it. It's bad that it has to come to this, but what are you going to do. If Nobby [Clark] doesn't deserve to be in there, nobody does."
There is speculation that Clark’s criminal record for charges brought against him for stealing motorcycle parts in 1998 had influenced the AMA, although the organization maintains that it was an error in their process.
“Once it was determined that a serious balloting error had occurred in the committee process, the chairman of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation (AMHF) Board of Directors, the chairman of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Board of Directors and the AMA President & CEO met to determine the appropriate course of action,” read the statement, attributed to AMA Hall of Fame Chairman Jeffrey V. Heininger. “Given the egregiousness of the error, it was determined that, to maintain the integrity of the Hall of Fame induction process and the Hall of Fame itself, Mr. Clark would not be inducted with the 2012 class.
“Many people have made statements suggesting that we ignore the serious breakdown of our process and induct Mr. Clark as we had originally announced. When I became chairman, I did so with the understanding that the AMHF needed to become more transparent in its dealings and move away from the “good old boy” reputation we had been tagged with. Our error was one of procedure, and it had very serious implications. Had we ignored this error, not only would the democratic process that our committees follow have been undermined, the nominees whose names are rightfully on the ballot would not have received fair consideration in the voting process.”
Calls to the AMA for further information have not yet been answered.