Aug 27, 2001
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AMA Pro Racing CEO Scott Hollingsworth ignored advice from AMA staff members in the Mat Mladin controversy, telling them that he wanted to make an example out of Mladin and would "take the heat" for any controversy that arose out of his decision to fine Mladin $5000 and dock him a point for his comments in a press conference at Loudon.<BR><BR>Hollingsworth--a relative newcomer to the paddock who was not around when Kenny Leroy Roberts, Eddie Lawson and Superbike founder Steve McLaughlin frequently criticized the AMA, often in regards to safety problems--has said that riders give up their right to criticize AMA when they "benefit from the fruits of AMA Pro racing" in the form of increased purses and TV coverage.<BR><BR>Controversy did flare when it was found that the AMA press release announcing the penalty against Mladin misrepresented what Mladin actually said. A tape recording of the actual press conference posted on RoadracingWorld.com allowed site visitors to compare Mladin's words to the distorted version presented by the AMA release. But despite Hollingsworth's assurances to his staff members--"I'll take the heat," he told them--Hollingsworth said nothing as AMA Pro Racing Director of Competition Merrill Vanderslice and AMA Pro Racing Public Relations Contractor Larry Lawrence bore the brunt of the public criticism.<BR><BR>Discussions have taken place at the Board of Directors level, including how the situation developed.<BR><BR>Lawrence initiated official outrage over Mladin's relatively tame criticism of the AMA, New Hampshire International Speedway and a local reporter who Mladin said misrepresented the facts in a news story. Lawrence has maintained that the reporter in question wrote an accurate portrayal of what happened when he went to Mladin's pit area for an interview--claiming he was turned away by a crew member who said Mladin was not giving interviews--and that Mladin was therefore unjustified in questioning the reporter's credibility.<BR><BR>Vanderslice, who was not at the June 15 provisional-pole press conference but was filled in by Lawrence, initially discussed the situation with Hollingsworth, then held a meeting with Mladin and Yoshimura Suzuki Manager Don Sakakura on Saturday, June 16 with AMA's Ron Barrick also present. Following the meeting, Vanderslice reported that Mladin was contrite and recommended to Hollingsworth that Mladin be warned and not fined or otherwise sanctioned.<BR><BR>But Hollingsworth said "No, I want to make an example out of this guy"--apparently as a warning to other riders to not speak out, even in response to direct questions regarding track safety problems--and instructed Vanderslice to fine Mladin $5000 and take away a Championship point. Hollingsworth also told Vanderslice, "I'll take the heat" for any resulting outcry.<BR><BR>After that decision, Lawrence wrote a press release announcing the fine and point deduction, and sent it in to AMA headquarters. There, before posting the release on the AMA website, AMA webmaster Matt Ringlien passed it over to Vanderslice for approval. But instead of approving the release as written, Vanderslice--without Hollingsworth's knowledge--instructed Ringlien to add a line claiming that Mladin had "used profanity at times" when in fact the tape recording showed that Mladin had said, once, "I'm tired of this shit" in reference to being misquoted and misrepresented by the press.<BR><BR>Hollingsworth--who apparently has never heard and still refuses to personally listen to the tape-recording of the press conference--didn't find out that the press release was altered until after receiving a mediation brief from Mladin's lawyer and calling a staff meeting to investigate the situation.<BR><BR>It was during that meeting that Hollingsworth learned that Vanderslice ordered the additional language added.<BR><BR>The additional language and the way it portrays Mladin is a major issue in a looming legal battle between AMA Pro Racing and Mladin.<BR><BR>Mladin's attorney, former AMA racer Arthur C. Chambers, was seen in the paddock at Pikes Peak International Raceway on Sunday, during the AMA National there.<BR><BR>Stay tuned.