BMX freestyle is a sport that's about to make history with its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020.
Many of the riders are from Southern California like Angie Marino who is on track to send a very big message to the sports world.
She is one of 10 women BMX athletes invited to the X Games who will be a no-show in August, the I-Team has learned.
U.S. & World
"We weren't trying to bash them by not attending the demo," Marino said.
She says the women BMX riders were asked to be part of a demonstration event and not compete like the men.
Over the last couple of years, the women riders, who come from Germany, Japan and New Zealand, have been given appearance fees of $1,000 at the X Games, she and other riders say.
Cash prizes for the men are reportedly at least $25,000.
"We've been accepted at all these other contests as an equal and we just want that same respect given back to us by the X Games," Marino said, pointing out events like the Van Pro Cup and UCI competitions offer pay and medals. Marino is sponsored by Vans.
Similar calls for parity and equity were literally chanted at the FIFA Womens World Cup, which Team USA won for the fourth straight year, and the Times Up Movement.
Marino, who is a member of Team USA in BMX Freestyle, says women riders are making their mark with a potential 259 million in reach after reviewing the social media accounts of top BMX women freestylers.
"I have more followers than a lot of the men do and there's other girls that have more than me so to say that we don't have an impact that there's no advertising that's totally false," she said.
Nina Buitrago, a professional BMX freestyle rider and member of Team USA for Tokyo 2020, has been riding for nearly two decades.
She says she worked since 2003 to get the X Games to have a medal event for Women BMX. She says she even collected hundreds of signatures of people who say they want to see women medal events and presented them to game officials.
"The time is now to look at what's happening in women's soccer and their demand for equal pay. We just want to compete," Buitrago said.
One of Marino's sponsors, Cult, a BMX bicycle manufacturer from Santa Ana, says it is standing by her and the three other riders they represent who decided not to go to the X Games this year. A post on its Instagram site says, "we stand by our women."
A spokesperson for the X Games says it is the first action sports competition to offer equal pay to men and women starting in 2007.
"Specific sports disciplines are reviewed and adjusted regularly based on many factors, including participation levels, competitive levels, relevance, programming needs, overall industry schedules and top-level athlete availability — to name a few," the statement said. "The X Games has featured a complement of sports disciplines — more than 100 in total over our 25-year history — that have continuously been evaluated and evolved.
"We've enjoyed having Women's BMX Park athletes at X Games in recent years, and unfortunately, women's BMX Park athletes declined to participate in a third-consecutive year of demos at X Games Minneapolis. We will, however, continue to monitor how the women's BMX landscape evolves for potential inclusion at future X Games events."
The folks at the X Games say at its winter events, both Ski and Snowboard Big Air medaled events (men's and women's) went away for years before returning to the X Games program and that Downhill Skateboarding twice had a demo on the Street Luge course in the early X Games events, but didn't become an actual X Games medaled sport.
"I think that the fact that the women in BMX have done demos, rather than compete at the summer X Games for at least 10 years is baffling to me," said Cindy Whitehead, a 2016 Skateboard Hall of Fame inductee and founder of Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word from Hermosa Beach. "These women are heading to the Olympics in 2020 and the IOC feels they are 'enough' but X Games doesn't?
"It's time for X Games to step up and offer them exactly what the men have — a chance to compete in front of the crowds, stand on a podium and have an X Games medal draped around their necks and the benefits and visibility that comes with it."
Added Marino: "I really hope that X Games will be willing to work with us for 2020 and moving forward and having a girls class and no more demos."