Sha’Carri Richardson‘s booting from the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for marijuana during her bid for the Olympic Team Trials points to the latest example at the intersection of systemic racism and gender, which often crashes down on Black women.
Black women are often underpaid, overworked, and undervalued, much like every other career, but the world of sports proves especially difficult as men often dominate the industry, leading to significantly smaller endorsements amounts, anxiety over financial security. Black women in sports are rarely given their flowers and are mostly examined through a shallow lens, exalting their physique and physical appearance over their athletic ability and what they bring to the industry.
On Tuesday it was revealed that Richardson would not be placed on the U.S. relay team, in hopes that the suspension would end in time to provide an opportunity to see the 21-year-old make her Olympic debut.
Richardson’s suspension also highlighted a necessary conversation around marijuana and the legalization of a drug that now is being marketed as a means of entrepreneurship for communities in states which have now legalized its usage. But it has not reversed a large part of the collective groupthink who still believe users should be criminalized, nor has it freed the thousands of Black community members who were jailed in response.
Prior to the announcement regarding Richardson, ESPN announced Malika Andrews, a Black reporter for the network, would be the sideline reporter during the 2021 NBA Finals, booting Rachel Nichols, who is white, from her position. Nichols, who regularly hosts the “The Jump,” replaced long-standing reporter Doris Burke during sideline coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals.
Late last week a recording of Nichols expressing frustration over her colleague Maria Taylor, became a viral story for The New York Times. In the audio from last year, Nichols can be heard “venting” to Adam Mendelsohn, an adviser to LeBron James and his agent Rich Paul. Mendelsohn warned Nichols that she should move with caution at ESPN, labeling the network a “snake pit.” In response, Nichols took aim at Taylor, mentioning her grievance over the network selecting Taylor as the face of the NBA Finals lineup on “The Jump.” Nichols went on to say that Taylor was offered the job because the network was “feeling pressure” over its diversity woes.
While Nichols apologized after the story took off, her comments helped to pit women against women in a field that is already difficult to break through, irrespective of race. It will be difficult for Taylor and Andrews to gain the respect of some followers as they will try to maintain it as an affirmative action hire, like Nichols originally did, instead of weighing the women on their journalistic standards and sports knowledge.
The Richardson and ESPN controversies were just two of the many-layered stories that emerged this week, where Black women are routinely targeted for their flair, athleticism, and ability in the world of sports.
1. Sha’Carri RichardsonSource:Getty
Richardson was excluded from the Tokyo games for 30 days after testing positive for marijuana ahead of the Olympics. On Tuesday it was announced that Richardson was not selected to compete on the U.S. relay team, after her supporters held out hope that she would be allowed one final chance to compete this year.
2. Florence “Flo Jo” Griffith-JoynerSource:Getty
Flo Jo was dragged into the argument over Richardson’s case by a white journalist who falsely claimed Griffith-Joyner’s athletic prowess was caused by doping.
3. Caster SemenyaSource:Getty
Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, 30, will not appear in the Tokyo Olympics after she failed to qualify for the Tokyo in the 5,000 meters, a departure from her domination in the 800 meters race. The 5,000 meter race is one of the competitions the runner is allowed to participate in that does not require athletes to alter their testosterone levels after a years long battle over the subject. Semenya, a South African intersex, cis-gendered athlete has refused the mandate which calls for her to take birth control, hormone injections or surgery in order to alter her testosterone levels artificially. Semenya has appealed the case to the European Court of Human Rights. But that leaves her 2021 Olympic dreams in limbo, as the games begin later this month.
4. Maria TaylorSource:Getty
Taylor, a Black reporter who rose through the ranks at ESPN, became a topic of discussion after she was reduced to a diversity hire by her colleague Rachel Nichols.
5. Brianna McNealSource:Getty
100m hurdeler Brianna McNeal will not be competing in the upcoming Olympics or the next games after her appeal over a five-year ban was denied, stemming from a missed drug test in 2020. McNeal told The New York Times that she missed the test after recovering from an abortion she had days prior. After submitting documentation about her abortion, she mistakenly changed the date of the procedure by a day, which prompted accusations of tampering.
In a twist FINA, the governing body for swimming announced it will look into its initial decision to ban the SoulCap, a black-owned swim cap line that caters to Black hair. Last week FINA announced the cap did not fit within the approved swimwear guidelines, prompting immediate backlash.