When the then-new Loudon racetrack was built and showed to the world, Ski and Randy Renfrow went on behalf of all motorcycle racers to check it out. They did not like what they saw. Ski told John Ulrich that it was the most dangerous racetrack that he’d ever seen, that he’d raced off-road motorcycles on tree-stump lined single track that were actually safer. Renfrow said the same thing. Their comments were in the next week’s issue of Cycle News.
Both received calls from AMA headquarters telling them that based on their comments and how irate the owner of the track was because of said comments that they were being fined $5000, each. This was in the early 1990s when five grand was a nice, new sport bike, or most of a decent truck. Point being it was not an unsubstantial amount of money.
Renfrow was incensed and tried to talk to the AMA about how they actually can’t legally control his speech, it’s protected in the US constitution. The AMA, and this was the old AMA of Bill Boyce and company (Boyce raced in the 1940s and onward) were not convinced that the US Constitution had any power over the great and powerful AMA and held firm. Ski, on the other hand brought his checkbook and said, fine, here is your money but I am telling you now that I am going to organize the racing paddock into a union and we will no longer be racing for points and a meager purse. I have a lawyer and we are going to petition the state of Ohio for arbitration. Ski repeated everything his lawyer friend and insurance friends had told him to say and it put the fear of God into the AMA.
Wait, wait, wait, Dave, just wait, be reasonable, the AMA people said. We’ll lower the fine to $500 and put you on probation. Is that better? Ski said ok. Then he went and formed a rider union which for a summer was a reasonably powerful entity and helped end the rein of the old AMA.