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Is Jeff Emig’s Apology Convincing or Simply Slick PR? Does it matter?

Jeff Emig’s open apology for the conduct leading to his employment termination by Kawasaki left me with mixed feelings. When I first read Emig’s comments, I have to admit that I was impressed and moved – particularly about the comment concerning his phone call to his father. It sounded like these comments came from the heart.

After a while, I did begin to wonder whether Jeff really wrote this apology himself, or whether a public relations expert helped him. Should it make a difference? I don’t really know, but probably not.

Most of us are taught that forgiveness is the right thing. We should certainly forgive Jeff Emig, and forgiveness is probably not the issue. The issue is what should happen to Jeff Emig at this point.

Different people will react differently to this situation, but here are MD’s thoughts. Emig is a fabulous talent. Just two years ago, he could get a last place start in an AMA National Outdoor 250 Motocross race, and still win the race. He was probably the fastest outdoor motocross racer on the planet in 1996 and 1997 (our apologies to Stefan Everts).

It was during this time-frame that Emig had spectacular success as a rider, winning four championships in a row, including two AMA 250 Outdoor Motocross championships, the AMA 250 Supercross championship, and the World Supercross championship. Indeed, Emig is the only rider to beat Jeremy McGrath in the AMA 250 Supercross championship in the past seven years.

With all this success on the track, Emig received loads of money and fan adulation off the track. Clearly, this went to Emig’s head, and took his focus off racing. Rumors ran rampant about Emig’s life style, and his poor performance on the racetrack lent credibility to these rumors. Although Emig had a brief winning streak at the end of the 1998 AMA 250 Outdoor Motocross championship series (winning several motos and overalls in the last few rounds), he really wasn’t the same rider after 1997. His 1999 season was pathetic by the standards he had previously set for himself.

Emig’s downward spiral ended with his arrest in Lake Havasu and his firing by Kawasaki. Emig had “bottomed out”. If true, this is a good thing, because there in only one direction left . . . up.

There are rumors that Yamaha is talking to Emig about a contract to ride its factory bikes next year. Should Emig get another factory contract and another factory bike to ride without any further consequences? Or should there be further punishment?

Last year, the AMA suspended road racer Anthony Gobert from several AMA Superbike races due to Gobert’s testing positive for marijuana use. Would it be fair for the AMA to ignore Jeff Emig’s situation? I don’t think so.

If the AMA wants to ignore marijuana use by motocross riders, that is one thing; but if the AMA is serious about allowing only riders who are drug free to compete in AMA Supercross and Motocross events, then it must levy some punishment against Emig, including mandatory periodic drug tests – just like Gobert. The punishment must be consistent with the way Gobert was punished, and it must be consistent with setting an example and a precedent for other Supercross/Motocross riders. It also must be consistent with setting Emig on the right course. If he simply slides right into another factory contract and factory ride, without a suspension or other punishment by the AMA, Emig may not learn his lesson, and may repeat the same behavior.

MD loves outdoor motocross even more than supercross. The higher speeds exaggerate the grace and skill of the riders. We like nothing more than watching Emig flow through a rough and challenging outdoor motocross track the way he did in 1996 and 1997. In this writer’s opinion, when Emig is “on” his style and smoothness are second only to that displayed by Damon Bradshaw during the earlier part of this decade. We want to see Jeff ride like that again, but we feel that some form of punishment by the AMA would be a necessary step in Emig’s comeback.