NEW YORK -- Antonio McKay has won six gold medals of consequence in his career and received little recognition for any. All of a sudden, he's receiving plenty of attention.
Not because he's one of the world's premier quarter-milers or because he's one of the more personable athletes on the track circuit. He's in the news because he recently became the first black track and field athlete to compete for the New York Athletic Club.
At a time when organizations are under increasing pressure to bring more minorities into their system, the New York Athletic Club was one of the last holdouts. The 121-year-old club has been criticized repeatedly for restrictive attitudes toward blacks, women and Jews. The courts recently ordered the club to open membership to women.
Ray Lumpp, athletic director at NYAC, said McKay was the first black track star he considered. He consulted NYAC track coach Timmy Quinn and they reached an agreement with McKay before the indoor season.
'He's an outstanding talent and an oustanding young man,' said Lumpp, who added NYAC has sponsored black athletes in other sports. 'He's happy to be with us.'
The club has sponsored a number of prominent track stars, including Irish miler Eamonn Coghlan. Before McKay consented to join, he said he wanted assurances he would not be a token.
'My biggest concern was I wouldn't be the only one,' said McKay, a 25-year-old former Georgia Tech star. 'I didn't want it said that the New York Athletic Club had the first black and no longer hear about it. I don't want it to stop.'
Since accepting McKay, Lumpp says NYAC has considered other black track and field athletes. McKay says some have approached him about joining NYAC.
'The club has been great to me,' McKay said. 'They treat me with a great deal of respect. Nobody in Atlanta ever offered me a penny to train. Then to have the New York Athletic Club do so, well it's the biggest thing to happen to me.'
McKay is critical of a group he believes should be American track and field's biggest supporter. McKay says The Athletics Congress, the governing body of U.S. track and field, is not offering its athletes enough financial help.
Last year, TAC instituted Operation Seoul, a program that gave stipends to athletes deemed possible medalists. Among them were Carl Lewis and Edwin Moses, definite medal favorites, but people who didn't need money.
McKay was added to the Operation Seoul list only after he made the Olympic team. This year, McKay said TAC is not offering him financial support.
McKay has won Olympic gold medals as a member of the last two U.S. 4 x 400-meter relay teams, a gold at the 1987 World Championships for being on the relay team, a gold for winning the 400 meters at the 1987 World Indoor Championships and NCAA outdoor and indoor titles at 400 meters.
'The problem in track and field is TAC,' McKay said. 'Do you support the top four (in each event) or people that have been around for a long time? I've won six golds and been on every American team and every year I have to ask for funds.'