Most of us know Sha’Carri Richardson by now. She is a track and field sprinter who was trying out for the Olympic relay team, but unfortunately, following a failed drug test, she will be suspended for 30 days. Before today, she was to miss one race but still be eligible to compete in the Olympics. However, her name was completely left off the relay roster and she will now not be able to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.
This is one case where the reason for her failed drug test is important. Richardson, who is 21 years old as of the time I am writing this, found out one week before the 2021 Olympic trials that her biological mother died. And the drug of choice was cannabis.
I am literally twice Richardson’s age and still have my mother here. So I am the absolutely last person who will judge someone from a side of the mountain I’ve never had to climb. When I was 21, I was on my way to moving to my second duty station as an Army soldier. I was moving from Kentucky to Texas, and this is after living in Baltimore for my entire childhood and never leaving the state of Maryland. While that was strenuous and stressful, I would never compare that to the pressure of trying to qualify for an Olympic team at that age.
Not to mention, the entire country and world didn’t watch me move from Kentucky to Texas. So all the mistakes I made were only known to me, my wife at that time, and anyone I chose to share them with.
Along with that, I think about myself now at 42 (in a few days), and how I would feel upon losing my mother. I would be devastated to say the very least.
Separately, if I became a public figure to where just about my every move was scrutinized, I’m not even sure how I would handle that at this point, and that is not even with a traumatic event happening. And respectfully, my mental maturity is much further along than Richardson’s, mainly due to age and experience. So there is likely more of an expectation that I could handle things a little better than she would. And rightfully so.
Now put the two together.
So as a public figure who just lost her mother and handling it with the greatest of maturity at 21? I don’t know even know how I would handle that at 42. So hell no…she gets no judgment from me.
However (you knew this was coming…time to rip off the band-aid), I say all that to say this.
Rules are just straight garbage sometimes. Trash. They make no sense. They don’t apply. Outdated. Primitive. Many exist just because no one decided to even review them, let alone change them to conform to the current state of whatever is going on.
WITH THAT BEING SAID…Richardson violated the rules. Rules she knew existed when she signed up to try out for the Olympics.
By the way…for those of you saying, “YOU’RE NOT PERFECT!” or “STOP ACTING LIKE YOU’VE NEVER DONE ANYTHING WRONG” or “CAST THE FIRST STONE,” let me stop you right there.
First of all, my life has no bearing on someone else. Wrong is wrong, whether I have done the very same thing or not.
Second, someone will always have done something wrong in the past. So no one today should ever be held accountable because someone else did something wrong at one time? Come on, now.
Third, if that isn’t your mindset every time someone does something wrong, then that’s called being a hypocrite. In other words, if you can say that here, but not when someone does something you actually don’t agree with, then you are faking the funk. People can see through that.
Richardson acknowledges that she broke the rules. She did not try and make excuses (I don’t personally consider stating that she went to cannabis following word of her mother’s death as an “excuse,” but I digress). She accepted responsibility. I don’t recall her taking jabs at the rules themselves. She simply stated that she is “human,” which to me is fully respecting the rules that were in place.
There is no doubt that racism is playing a MAJOR part in a LOT of what is happening in this country. Of course, that reared its head here as well.
Blacks need support from society at this fragile time for us. And a lot of folks are providing that support, which is greatly appreciated.
However, “lock stepping” with everything we as Blacks do, right or wrong, is NOT the support you think it is. That goes for those within our own community as well.
If you’re not aware, “lock stepping” basically means to be okay with literally everything someone does. Everything.
I’m sure I’ll lose some people on this, which is fine. But people immediately rush to “battle stations” when it comes to anything involving race, which sometimes I understand, but with other instances, it just isn’t productive and this mode alone does not move us forward. There is less focus on facts and more on race, which really does little to address the issue itself.
For example, many people referenced Michael Phelps as a comparison. This is not a good one, and here’s why. For one thing, Phelps was caught on video with a bong. He did not fail an official drug test. For Richardson, it was a violation of rules. For Phelps, it was more of an ethical thing. Yet, he was suspended for three months (Richardson was suspended for one) and he lost a key endorsement. To date, Richardson has not lost any.
So everyone saying to “show Phelps that same energy!” implying that people are treating Richardson worse than Phelps is complete nonsense.
Along with this, the vast majority of what I’ve seen for Richardson is support. People are saying that folks are “dragging” Richardson, but for once (and surprisingly) I’m not seeing a whole lot of that. The problem I see is that folks are saying that those holding her accountable are “dragging” her. Saying that she “knew the rules” is “dragging” her. Saying she was wrong is “dragging” her. Things like that.
Saying she is garbage human being for doing this would be “dragging” her. Calling her names would be “dragging” her. Insulting some aspect of her life that has nothing to do with her career would be “dragging” her. Simply stating that she did wrong is nowhere near “dragging.”
What’s sad about this is that society runs around all day complaining about this generation and their lack of regard for the rules. Then, as grown adults, we make excuses for someone to break the rules. Where is today’s generation learning it from?
And that’s another thing…not liking the rules is no excuse to break them. I get it…you believe cannabis still being illegal certain places is “stupid.” Cannabis is not a “performance enhancer.” I feel you. But breaking the rule is not the time to present that it’s a perceived “stupid” rule. Imagine giving your kids a curfew and they show up two hours late, saying your rule was “stupid.” I’m not even going to say to “raise your hand” if you would accept that. You know you wouldn’t.
We live in a society that just calls things “stupid” that we don’t agree with. There are measures in place to propose rule changes and things of that sort for just about everything we do, but most folks don’t want to go through that trouble. They would rather skirt by, breaking the rules just about whenever they want and when they get caught, they double down as though they didn’t know the rule existed or were okay with it from the beginning.
That is not the way to do business.
People will read this as judging her for being weak following her mother’s death. Not even close. This is about the rules, not how she felt following a traumatic event. Our feelings on cannabis have no relevance in this.
The problem is that if you allow her to get by on this, then others will want to get by also. If the death of a loved one is acceptable, then what else is? Who are we to decide how much trauma someone deals with that allows them to smoke cannabis? We cannot. The sad part is that people are more about getting her back onto the Olympic team than proposing to have the rule changed, which is where I would start. Otherwise, this just becomes a problem for someone else down the road.
And we already know the deal…if the person is white and receives less punishment than here, there’s a problem. If they receive more punishment just so it doesn’t “look” like anything, there will be a problem there, too. Same if it is another person of color. Meanwhile, all the complaining about cannabis still being illegal goes no further than social media.
Holding her accountable here is the right thing to do. For one, she’s already there. She’s learning from this. Pretending she did nothing wrong is not the right way to go about this. You can still support Blacks and not say that everything we do is okay, because frankly, it isn’t. And the worst thing you can do is convey that we can do no wrong, or that support will exist no matter what we do. That is cult-like behavior, but it also doesn’t help the person.
Again, I cannot judge where Richardson is mentally right now, and I will not even try. But if she let all the noise about the rules being “stupid” get to her, that means she may or may not decide to do it again later on and get suspended once more, thinking that society will just bail her out with their personal thoughts on cannabis.
Why does that matter? Well, let’s look at mental health, another area that is grossly undervalued in this country. Cannabis will not take away the pain of losing her mother. Period. And if all we’re doing is encouraging the use of cannabis, we’re basically saying to hell with her mental health. We could at least see about putting something in place that gives athletes other options. I don’t hear nearly enough people talking about that.
An extremely promising athlete broke a rule here. Lock stepping with that could encourage a disregard for the rules later, which could hurt her even more. Even if she says she learned, in the back of hers (or anyone’s) mind, the insurance of the public backing her up after violating the rule is always there.
What we want is for her to realize that she was wrong, which she does. The closer she is to that, the less likely she is to do something like this again. THAT is what we need to be concerned with. Not letting our personal feelings as we’re sitting on our couches with nowhere near the commitment as she has to her career dictate what should happen. I can tell people to break rules all day long when I’m not the one who loses anything in the process.
Yeah, it’s lousy. But Richardson is representing the United States in the Olympics. She has WAY more structure to follow than we do. Breaking a rule on the massive stage she is on is NOT the way to express that we don’t agree with a rule. We just have to consider that before rushing to support a person’s actions when they went against rules she knew existed…however “stupid” they may be. We have to know when we’re actually hurting someone more than we are helping.