by Sherri Kolade
Black renowned track star Sha’Carri Richardson’s recent disqualification in representing Team USA in Tokyo during the summer Olympics was a loss that was felt throughout Black communities who looked up to the sixth-fastest woman in history.
The orange-haired runner’s fame truly took off when in April, she gained fame for clocking a speed of 10.72 seconds at the Miramar Invitational 2021 athletic event.
Richardson, 21, beat out other young athletic competitors and won an opportunity to represent Team USA in Tokyo this summer.
Her rise to fame, though, is not one without controversy. She tested positive for THC (a chemical found in marijuana) during a drug test in June with a subsequent suspension that will keep her out of the Olympics in a 100m race, which is leaving many upset and others with mixed reactions.
And just 45 minutes north of Traverse City in early July, President Joe Biden said in a CNN article that “everybody knows the rules going in,” he said during an event in response to Richardson’s Olympic ban. “The rules are the rules.”
Some on Black Twitter, however, took it differently. Their Twitter fingers were ablaze and they spoke out against Richardson’s 30-day suspension, Black Enterprise reported.
Memes and Tweets and reactions by the thousands have cropped up on the social media platform, mostly in response to their thoughts on the unfairness, and absurdity of what they feel is too harsh of a penalty for smoking weed. Many have tweeted to #cancelolympics not only because of the disagreement in Richardson’s suspension but because of rising COVID-19 cases in Tokyo, too, according to national reports.
“Angry at a system that uses weed to punish Black folks while rewarding and enriching white folks,” another Twitter user posted according to Black Enterprise.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) state that cannabis is a banned substance because it “poses a health risk to athletes, has the potential to enhance performance and violates the spirit of sport,” according to a national article.
“The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels; hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her,” said USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart.
According to Black Enterprise, Richardson was on the “Today Show” previously where she talked about the situation.
“I know what I did. I know what I’m supposed to do … I still made that decision,” Richardson said, as reported by the New York Post. “I want to take responsibility for my actions. I’m not looking for an excuse.”
Richardson discussed one of the reasons why she smoked weed, in response to losing her mother. She said in the article that she was “blinded by emotion, blinded by bad news, blinded by just hurting, hiding hurt honestly… I was just trying to hide my pain.”
From athletes and celebrities like Odell Beckham Jr., Dwyane Wade, Emmanuel Acho, and others, to companies, like Nike, saying that they would still endorse Richardson – she was shown love from many others regardless of the suspension.
One person who tweeted shamed the media outlets for how they handled Richardson.
“She found out her mom died from a reporter before her races,” they said in the magazine article. “She went into emotional panic and smoked weed which is legal in Oregon but illegal in this sport. She takes full responsibility for her actions.”
But when is the cancel culture that is pervasive in the Black community too much or even unwarranted, especially if Twitter fingers are quick to type out opinions instead of based on in-depth research?
Rebecca A. Colett, MBA, chief executive officer at Calyxeum, the first African American woman-owned Cannabis Cultivation and Processing brand in the Midwest, said that education is essential before spouting off comments and opinions.
“I think people should be educated,” Colett said, adding that people on both sides of the issue need to learn facts first.
Colett said that people look at Richardson and see her long weave and long nails and put a stigma on her. She added that there is a stigma about who consumes cannabis.
“I think cannabis is seen as this negative drug when it’s a plant; it’s a healing plant so I think it first has to be destigmatized,” Colett said, adding that marijuana is not a gateway drug or even hard-hitting like true street drugs. “We should have never gotten to this point.”
She added that cannabis can be used for everything from inflammation to anxiety and has similar uses as Tylenol.
She added that the Olympic rules are systemic rules put in place to “harm people of color.”
“I am disappointed but not surprised by what happened,” she said.
Jerome Crawford, director of legal operations and social equity at East Lansing-based Pleasantrees, a vertically integrated cannabis company, said that while Richardson broke the rules, there is more to her story.
“The rules are broken,” Crawford said, adding that the sporting entities that suspended Richardson “didn’t do anything wrong” but they are upholding antiquated rules, and they could have used this opportunity as a catalyst for “greater change and reform.”
Crawford said that Black Twitter, among others promoting the cancelation of the Olympics, shouldn’t move so fast. Other Black Olympians still participating in the games should be supported, he said, and sports celebrities like gymnast Gabby Douglas have spoken out about that.
“There is a fine balance — we should still be sure to support other athletes that earned the right to be there … while simultaneously advocating for a better change,” Crawford said.
Crawford added that he sees his role even locally to help “right the wrongs of the past,” especially when it comes to decriminalizing cannabis in Black and Brown communities.
“We need to do a better job … so our impact goes a long way,” he said, also adding that his company stands with Richardson and hopes others do, too. “We prefer to see her participate in these games. We stand with her … and say, ‘Let her run.’”