The most disrespected person in America
All eyes have been on the upcoming Tokyo Olympics as the trials for various events have gone underway for the past couple of weeks. And Black people have been at the forefront. From Simone Manuel, North Carolina A&T 4x400m team, Simone Biles, Jordan Chiles and Sha’Carri Richardson.
Sha’Carri Richardson became the sixth-fastest woman in the world after running 10.72 in the 100-meter dash. At just 21 years old, she ran the fastest time ever this early in the season and the fastest run by anyone since the Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Heran ran a 10.70. “My season is going to be unbelievable, something that I haven’t been expecting, something that the world hasn’t been expecting. Im not done yet. There’s more work to be done, there’s ways to get faster, there’s ways to become better. So we’re going back to the drawing board.” Then news broke, Sha’Carri tested positive for marijuana and could possibly miss the Olympics. The next morning, she did an interview on the Today Show with Savannah Guthrie taking full responsibility for what happened, “I want to take full responsibility for my actions. I know what I did, I know what I am supposed to do...and I still made that decision.” Just a week before the Olympic Trials, the Track and Field star found out her biological mother had passed away during an interview with a reporter. “People don’t understand what it’s like to have to...go in front of the world and put on a face and hide my pain. Who am I to tell you how to cope when you’re dealing with the pain or you’re dealing with a struggle that haven’t experienced before or that you thought you never would have to deal with?” She also added that the death was “triggering” and sent her into a ”state of emotional panic.” The former LSU sprinter accepted her one-month suspension which will cause her to miss the highly anticipated 100m dash but still made her eligible for the 4x100 meter relay race. But the US decided not to select the sixth fastest woman in the world.
Briana McNeal is the defending Olympic 100m hurdle Gold medalist. She has been accused of “tampering within the results management process.” The track star received a five-year ban which not only includes the Tokyo Olympics but the 2024 Summer games in Paris. “This case involves a misunderstanding related to an explanation that Briana McNeal voluntarily provided to the AIU about a January 2020 missed test” attorneys Howard Jacobs and Lindsay Brandon said in a statement. On January 12th, drug testers knocked on her door to test her but she didn’t answer due to being medicated after receiving a “surprise medical procedure.” The procedure...an abortion. Originally, McNeal did not wish to disclose her procedure but she felt forced after being under immense pressure by investigators to give them an answer. The procedure left her emotional and traumatized. The World Athletics said they didn’t believe she was traumatized by the abortion because she continued to post on social media and compete afterward. McNeal tweeted, “Loss my baby brother literally a month ago, two weeks before the trials. As if this case and everything else I’ve been enduring isn’t a lot. Some of you could never. I just seek God everyday. Ya’ll have no idea.”
Soul Cap is a Black-Owned British swim brand that caters to diverse hairstyles like locs, braids, and afros AKA Black Women. Just days after British swimmer Alice Dearing became the first Black Women to qualify to represent Great Britain in the open-water marathon, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) refused to approve the use of caps designed for swimmers with “thick, curly and voluminous hair.” Soul Cap was told their caps do not “follow the natural form of the head.” The FINA said in a statement, “Best knowledge, athletes competing at the International events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration." Dearing partnered with Soul Cap in 2020 and had planned on wearing the caps during the Olympics, during an interview with Sky Sports News on July 5th she said, “The issue with this is I don’t want little Black girls and little Black boys to look at elite swimming and think it is not open to them because that is completely the wrong idea. It is open to them. Im really hopeful that with it being under review that some agreement will come about.”
Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilling are 18-year-old Namibian sprinters who were tested during a medical assessment and their testosterone levels exceeded the limit by a World Athletics’ policy on Athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD), according to the Namibia National Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association (NNOC-CGA). They require that female athletes’ blood testosterone levels be under 5nmol/L (nanomoles per liter) to compete in select women’s events. The committee has also stated that neither Mboma and Masillingi were unaware of their high testosterone levels. The pair have been banned from competing in the women’s 400m race at the Tokyo games.
In 2018, Caster Semenya was banned from competing after the World Athletics ruled that “to ensure fair competition, women with high testosterone levels must take medication to reduce them to compete in middle-distance races.” Semenya is the double Olympic champion in the 800m race and is hyperandrogenic meaning she has naturally high levels of the male sex hormone. She refused to take any medication to alter her testosterone levels. The South African native has taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights but the process is unlikely to be completed for months.
Gwen Berry, a US hammer, turned away from the flag while the National Anthem played during the medal ceremony and was draped in a t-shirt that read Activist Athlete over her head. She faced a slew of criticism from Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Rep. Dan Crenshaw and others for her brave stance for Black and Brown people. In 2019, she lost some of her sponsorships after raising her fist in protest on the podium of the Pan American games and received 12-month probation from the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee. The International Olympic Committee will be enforcing a ban known as Rule 50 that prevents athletes from protesting or demonstrating at the Tokyo games. Rule 50 states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas.” During an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, she stated she was not sure whether she would observe Rule 50. “ It depends on how Im feeling. It depends on what I want to do in that moment and what I want to do for my people in that moment. And I will do whatever comes upon me and whatever is my heart.”
Simone Biles is one of the most gifted athletes of all time. During the US Classic, Biles completed a move like no other. She is the first gymnast to ever attempt and complete the Yurchenko double pike during competition. And of course, she did it with ease. The crowd went CRAZY but the judges not so much. They gave her a provisional score of 6.6, completely undervaluing the difficult move. “I feel like now we just have to get what we get because there’s no point in putting up a fight because they’re not going to reward it.” Biles said per the Times. “So we just have to take it and be quiet.” In 2019, rumors were swirling that due to some of her moves being so difficult, they were banned. That wasn’t true, they just received low scores which discouraged other gymnasts from attempting them. At the 2019 World Championships, Biles introduced two new moves that also received poor scores. The Women’s Technical Committee stood by their decision saying, “Part of the reason for that might be a concern for the safety of gymnasts not nearly as skilled as Biles — by assigning a dangerous move a low start value, the federation quietly discourages others from risking it. But there also may be a fear that Biles is so good that she might run away with any competition she enters simply by doing a handful of moves that her rivals cannot, or dare not, attempt.
Black women have always been heavily scrutinized compared to their white counterparts. And these are just the stories from this summer, remember Allyson Felix's story with Nike? She accused the brand (who also sponsored her at the time) of penalizing her for becoming a mother and other pregnant athletes in contract negotiations. She risked losing her main sponsorship and being blacklisted from major meets. On June 23rd, the most decorated American female track and field Olympian left Nike and started her own brand, Saysh. She also is Athleta, a brand focusing on women athletes, the first athlete sponsor. Not long after Felix made her move, Simone Biles followed right behind.
In May 1962, Malcolm X said three sentences that still resonate today, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black Woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black Woman. The most neglected woman in America is the Black Woman.”