Tag Archive: SJP

  1. The hypocrisy of track and field viewers

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    With the Tokyo Summer Olympics finally ending, the situation of Sha’carri Richardson has not left my mind. Perhaps it’s the excessive commentary on the topic online, as users debate the fairness of her suspension while constantly belittling and dismissing the achievements of Jamaican athletes. As a Jamaican, track and field is a massive sport in our culture, similar to America’s obsession with football. The pre-game parties and anxiously waiting to watch the Super Bowl in the living room is the same way we are about Champs – an annual track and field meet for secondary school students in Jamaica where we are introduced to schools’ best athletes who we can potentially see at the Olympics. Champs is the breeding ground for top world athletes as all of our notable Olympians like Usain Bolt, Michael Frater, Elaine Thompson-Herah and many more have passed through the meet. The widespread coverage and continuous debates about Richardson’s suspension have ultimately attracted millions of new eyes to the sport that would otherwise not be watching. Nevertheless, these new eyes constantly prove their lack of knowledge on track and field. They failed to do sufficient research about athletes’ ranking and have ultimately caused widespread misinformation that negatively impacts Jamaican female athletes.

    The Inter-Secondary Schools Boys and Girls Champs is an annual track and field meet for youth, where school athletes ranging from ages 10 through 19 compete in a five-day competition. Just as Americans aimlessly and loyally represent and support their favorite football teams, Jamaicans loyally watch and support schools across the country, made famous by their successful youth athletes. These deep ties are usually generational or simply supporting talent. Champs introduces us to young athletes who compete in world championships and, subsequently, the Olympics. The fastest runners in the world, such as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah and Usain Bolt, rose up from Champs to break global records at the Olympics, making a name for themselves and claiming constant dominance for Jamaica in track and field.

    With Jamaica being at the forefront of track and field, it was no surprise to see that the Jamaican Gleaner was first to break the news about Richardson’s suspension after failing her drug test and testing positive for marijuana. Once the news came out, I was exposed to two opposing reactions. From Americans, I heard utter frustration and calls for an overruling of the suspension, while Jamaicans thought it was a fair consequence of actions.The split reaction ultimately lead to the classic African-American versus Caribbean debate, which happens on twitter ever so often. During this specific debate, I felt as though some African-Americans perpetuated utter ignorance about nationality versus race and the history of track and field.

    During this Twitter battle, there was a lot of misinformation being thrown around, particularly about Richardson’s ranking and the effects of marijuana. On July 2, a Twitter user said, “[Sha’carri Richardson] is THE FASTEST WOMAN ON EARTH” despite her use of cannabis. To confirm, this information is false. While Richardson did run an impressive 10.72 in the 100m final in April and holds the title of the fastest woman in the United States, she is actually the third fastest in the world, with Jamaicans holding the first and second position. I consistently saw the narrative that the Olympics didn’t allow the fastest woman in the world to run, which completely disregarded the years of effort and work done by Jamaican runners.

    Another Twitter thread that completely baffled me began with a user who said that the Olympics didn’t want to see a Black woman compete in Tokyo, which was quickly corrected by another user,“[Shelly- Ann] is a black woman and she will win.” The exchange ended with a misinformed reply by another user,  “Blackness is an American social concept and ethnic culture of African Americans. [Shelly-Ann] ain’t a black American.” This twitter user, and everyone who agreed with him, has removed Fraser-Pryce, Jamaicans and anyone outside of America from being Black. This tweet has completely confused me for some time now, because of how this individual was able to mix up race with nationality all in two sentences. My simple response is this: Black women dominate track and field. Fraser-Pryce and Thompson-Herah do not just represent Jamaica, but all Black people no matter their nationality. I want to note that during these debates, there is also an alarming amount of insults about Jamaica. I do think it is very powerful to see Black women across the world dominating track and field, and Richardson adding to the list of powerful Black racers is the icing on the cake. But while I respect her love for the sport, it’s hard to ignore her blatant disregard for rules.

    While this controversy has opened up conversations about racism and sexism within the Olympics, our energy is being used in the wrong places. Sexism and racism is heavily prominent amongst Black women in track and field, facing true inequalities and disqualifications for “inbalances” in hormones and other issues. Jamaicans in particular hold track and field near and dear to their heart, which other countries may not understand. Jamaican athletes have faced heavy criticism and constant speculation of doping and unjust suspensions that’s not easily comparable to Richardson’s suspension.

    I believe that Richardson is talented and holds impressive times, but people calling her quicker than the fastest woman in the world does not make sense. On Aug. 21, she was definitely humbled  at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon as she finished last while Jamaica had a clean sweep.