A Tale of Two Pities: Sha’Carri Richardson and Gwen Berry

Note 1: This article was not written or endorsed by Christelyn Karazin, Nicole or any other writers on the blog.

I wanted to write this article sooner, but I wanted to wait and see what the situation would be with Sha’Carri Richardson and the U.S. Track and Field Trials. At this point, it has been officially been announced that she has been left off the Olympic team after her marijuana test read positive. Before this decision was made, she was considered ineligible to compete in the individual 100-meter race in Tokyo. In June, Sha’Carri made waves across social media with her colourful appearance, memorable name and her amazing record at the women’s 100-meter final. At only 21 years old, she ran the race in 10.86 seconds at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Oregon. She made an amazing accomplishment. 

However, she also chose not to play ball. While weed is legal in Oregon, it is not entirely legal across the United States and is banned with her sports authority. She knew the risks and potential consequences of her decision and went ahead with it anyway. I am sure that sports coaches, event facilitators and other authority figures in the sports world, would have outlined the rules regarding drugs. People have started to compare this situation to Michael Phelps. While he was punished for smoking weed, he did get to go to the Olympics, as his infraction was months before the competition. Also, while he was photographed enjoying the drug, it was never the official result of a qualifying test. 

I honestly feel for her. She is a very talented young lady, and she found out that her mother had died just days before the race – and during an interview with a reporter, at that. Sha’Carri said herself that she used the drug to cope with her mother’s passing. However, the rules are rules. Marijuana is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the USADA in-competition period. If you want to run for a sports team and represent a country, you do have to play by their rules.  That said, I must say that I am proud of Sha’Carri for showing up and taking accountability for her actions. I hope that she has learned a valuable lesson from this experience, and I hope to see her in the Olympics by 2024. I am really excited to see her race against the Jamaican team and athletes in the future.



Now for my less sympathetic part of the article: Gwen Barry. Gwen Barry is a hammer thrower who decided to compete in the same U.S. Track and Field Trials. She placed third in her category. When she and her fellow competitors graced the podium, the event organizers played the American national anthem. While the other two stood at attention with their hands on their heart, she decided to pout, put her hands on her hips, turn her back to the U.S. flag, and throw a shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” on her head. She later went as far as to claim she was “set up” by event organizers.

Now, as a Canadian, I am decidedly less patriotic than my friends south of the border. Over here, it is not uncommon to see people sitting, talking, or doing some other activity during the anthem. That said, when the stakes are high, such as a sports game, or, say, a qualifying event for the world stage, people give the anthem its proper due. Honestly, even I stand for the national anthem when it plays around me in America – and I am not even a citizen! Gwen was one hundred percent out of line for her actions. I cannot even think of an appropriate excuse for this behaviour. 

Now, while I think some of us North Americans have legitimate critiques for our countries, the world stage is not the place to air your grievances. If you are so uncomfortable with representing your country on the world stage, then, as an athlete, you can be drafted for another country’s team. If you hate America, why do you want to represent them? As the supplicant, does she really think that she has the authority to tell the organizers when and how they should play the anthem? Does she really think that she has the authority to dictate the terms of her participation? 

The U.S. Track and Field team can pick from thousands of athletes, but you have only one opportunity. The Olympics are a chance for individual glory, yes, but you also have to make your team and your country, look good. Antics like these will not win the hearts of the audience, of officials who potentially rate her performance, or of sponsors that can make her Olympic journey decidedly more rewarding. If she felt this strongly about the situation, she should have stayed at home. The worst part of this situation to me is that this protest isn’t the first time she has acted out on the world stage. In 2019, she won a gold medal at the Pan American Games, and chose to raise a “black power” fist during an instrumental version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” After the Pan American Games, Berry received a letter from the U.S. Olympic Committee reprimanding her and reminding her of the rule that prohibits “any sort of demonstration in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

She claimed many things in her rebuttals to the backlash: the anthem does not speak to her; it is about freedom of speech; the protesting rule is ridiculous; the anthem does not represent her; it is about freedom of expression; she is fighting for those who face systemic racism; others are choosing patriotism over morality. To that I say, what does all of that have to do with the price of saltfish? Why as black women, do many of us think that our purpose in life is to be defiant? At 31 years old, she should honestly be able to see the forest for the trees at this point. Some commenters stated things perfectly: 


I don’t think anyone is saying she doesn’t have a right to protest, just that we shouldn’t have to support her offensive ideas by giving her a position on the U.S. Olympic team.  She can protest, but I don’t have to agree with her.  That Biden agrees with her is to his discredit – even if he is President.  Apparently, he supports her rather than our national flag.  No surprise.” 

“The Olympic platform is not the platform to protest.  It’s really simple.  By taking this position, she is representing our country and by turning her back on the flag and the anthem, she is disgracing it and every single American that watches.  She should be kicked out immediately.” 

“I think it’s funny that she’s claiming she was set up.  Not sure how she explains that, but playing the National Anthem is part of America. Every country plays their national anthem for a variety of reasons. We’re not going to do away with it simply because a minuscule percentage doesn’t like it.”

“Time and Place. Yes, athletes have a right to their opinion. They do not have the right to use their privilege – YES privilege – to force millions to be exposed to or accept their opinion, particularly for the Olympics.  These athletes think it’s about THEM, their skills, their medal, their opinion. But it’s not. It’s about them representing their COUNTRY on a global platform. It’s more about the country generating the best athletes, winning the medals, not the athlete. If you don’t love the country you represent, or at the least respect it, you should not be selected to be representing the country on the world stage no matter what your skill. The Olympic committee needs to have that as a requirement.  No political demonstrations or protests. Time and place. You compete for a country, honour and respect the country that gave you the ability to hone your skills and compete, and keep your private opinions to yourself.”

At best, she looks like a sore loser who needed to draw attention to herself. At worst, she looks like an anti-American instigator who is only here to rage against the system. The worst part is, she is a dark-skinned black woman. We are already struggling against the imagery of the angry black woman trope. This competition did nothing to her. She was given training opportunities, allowed to compete and was given the chance to represent her country on the world stage. I keep telling black women to stop protesting on the blog, and I mean it. Why bite the hand that feeds you? What do you gain with fighting the system here?  What happens if the call to remove her from the Olympic Games actually goes through?

The only ball she did play was the hammer throw. Congratulations on getting a third-place qualification, but these actions only served to throw this opportunity back in the face of all America. It would have made so much more sense for her to go to the games, play along, keep her head low, make a name for herself, and then use her platform to speak on behalf of oppressed people if she must. However, instead, she would rather fight for a community in a way that serves no one. To add insult to injury, she is going out on a limb for a community that hates her image, and could do nothing to support her should this opportunity slip through her fingers. Maybe she can hammer throw Big Macs through the McDonald’s drive-thru window. 

I would also suggest that you take some time to read Christelyn’s comments on the Pink Pill Community Tab (which you should be watching for any updates). I thought she gave a very eloquent response to the situation, and I want you to help me encourage her to create a video about the situation in the comments.  


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