There’s a conversation brewing around the seemingly blatant discrimination taking place at the 2021 Olympics games.
Speculation has mounted in the last week after queer track star Sha’Carri Richardson was disqualified from the games for testing positive for marijuana. The shocking news came just one week after Richardson became a nationwide sensation following her first-place win in the 100-meter dash at the Olympic trials.
As rumors of her 30-day suspension started to spread, Richardson tweeted out “I Am Human.”
I am human— Sha’Carri Richardson (@itskerrii) July 1, 2021
Shortly thereafter, Richardson appeared on the “Today Show” to own up to her marijuana use and explain it was a coping mechanism following the death of her mother.
Many have already been speaking out against the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and questioning the real reasoning behind some of their strict guidelines that appear to directly affect Black athletes.
Actor/filmmaker Seth Rogen blasted Richardson’s suspension claiming it was “rooted in racism.”
“The notion that weed is a problematic “drug” is rooted in racism,” Rogen said. “It’s insane that Team USA would disqualify one of this country’s most talented athletes over thinking that’s rooted in hatred. It’s something they should be ashamed of. Also if weed made you fast, I’d be FloJo.”
The notion that weed is a problematic “drug” is rooted in racism. It’s insane that Team USA would disqualify one of this country’s most talented athletes over thinking that’s rooted in hatred. It’s something they should be ashamed of. Also if weed made you fast, I’d be FloJo. https://t.co/swDLNoVcV3— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) July 2, 2021
Elsewhere in the Olympics, two additional Black female athletes were penalized as a result of strict guidelines. South African track gold medalist Caster Semenya was unable to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics due to her not meeting hormone requirements for her 800-meter race set by World Athletics, AP News reports.
Her disqualification comes one year after Semenya took the World Athletics to court for banning her from competing in the race because her natural testosterone levels surpassed the maximum level the organization allowed for that distance. In order to compete, Semenya would have had to take testosterone suppressants, which she refused to do. After losing to the World Athletics in court, it now appears as though she will never play in the Olympics again.
Just last week, 18-year-old runners from Namibia, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, were disqualified from competing in the 400 meters at the Tokyo Olympics due to their naturally high testosterone levels, Yahoo News reports. The two female runners that finished second and third behind Semenya at the 2016 Olympics, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, were also banned from the 800m race due to natural high testosterone. In order to compete, the women would have to undergo medical intervention.
Elsewhere, the International Swimming Federation came under fire after they decided to ban swim caps for natural Black hair. Designed by the Black-owned company Soul Cap, the specially-made swim cams were deemed unacceptable by the ISF for not fitting “the natural form of the head,” as noted by the Guardian.
In response, Black Swimming Association founding member Danielle Obe said the current swim cap used for swimmer athletes is designed for caucasian hair and said the “aquatic swimming must do better.”
“We need the space and the volume which products like the Soul Caps allow for. Inclusivity is realizing that no one head shape is ‘normal,”’ Obe said.
But none of this is new. When looking back at some of the challenges Black athletes faced whenever the Olympics rolls around, the world has had a history of discrimination towards Black players.
It’s no shocker that Jesse Owens was forced to endure blatant racism from Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, via JStore. The German dictator not only refused to “snubbed” a photograph with the gold medalist, but he even claimed Owens shouldn’t be allowed to compete, likening him to a “deer or gazelle.”
But when asked if he felt “snubbed” by Hitler, Owens told a crowd that the real snub came from the nation’s president at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Brittanica reports.
“Hitler didn’t snub me—it was [Roosevelt] who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram,” Owens said.
Not only did Roosevelt never publicly acknowledged Owens’s three gold medals, but he also failed to congratulate any of the 18 African Americans who competed at the Berlin Olympics. Roosevelt only invited the white Olympians to the White House in 1936.
The black Olympians who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics were not recognized by a president until 2016 when Barack Obama invited their living relatives to the White House to celebrate their lives and accomplishments.
When looking at the past and present of the Olympics, it looks like misogyny and white supremacy run too deep in the world’s view of who is qualified to compete. At least more people are able to speak up about it now than they could in the past.
Salute to all the athletes who worked hard and shared their passions on the field. You’re still champions to us.