Resignation Riots Brewing in AMA Hall of Fame

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AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Resignations

Back on June 11, Derek “Nobby” Clark was inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the famed motorcycle tuner recognized for his work that helped create racing legends, including Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini and three-time 500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts.

But a few weeks later, the AMA rescinded Clark’s honor, reporting his Hall of Fame status was revoked due to “an error in the Hall of Fame balloting process.”

This wasn’t going to quietly pass through the industry, and it was only a matter of time before people started reacting.

And on Thursday, the reactions began, fueled by the first man to officially resign as an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame member – Dave Despain, the famed journalist of SPEED’s “Wind Tunnel.”

In his resignation letter (entire letter below), Despain says he wants his name and all images removed from the AMA Motocycle Hall of Fame, stating “I have lost all faith in that process and, more importantly, in the individuals who apparently now control it.”

Despain wrapped up his letter with some strong words: “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.”

Shortly after Despain resigned, two-time AMA Grand National Champion Dick Mann did the same, saying the AMA Hall of Fame “lacks leadership.” There’s also talk within the industry of Kenny Roberts handing in his resignation letter.

Following the decision to rescind Clark’s status, Jeffrey V. Heininger, chairman of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation, which oversees the selection process for Hall of Fame nominees, said “this was a difficult decision, but it had to be made to ensure the integrity of this remarkable institution. We are undertaking a thorough review of our nomination process and its implementation going forward.”

The outcome of these resignation riots have certainly brewed some controversy around the people in charge of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Where will this ultimately go? We haven’t the slightest clue…but it’s far from over.

Following are the complete letters from Despain and Dick Mann:

Dave Despain’s Letter to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame:

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.


Dave Despain

Dick Mann’s Letter to AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame:

Enclosed is the medal I received when I was inducted in the AMA Hall Of Fame in 1998. This is in response to the mismanagement of the HOF Directors of the induction/non-induction of Nobby Clark.

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 of 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.

Dick Mann
AMA #59858