Sha’Carri Richardson Wants The Media To ‘Respect Athletes More’ As The Hype-over-substance Factor Is Creeping Into Her Brand

EUGENE, OREGON - JUNE 25: Sha'Carri Richardson competes in the women's 200 meter first round during the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field on June 25, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Sha’Carri Richardson isn’t here for your judgment. She only wants your valorization. The most polarizing figure in the women’s track failed to qualify for the 200 meters final on Sunday at the U.S. Track and Field Championships, and undoubtedly she expected the hate to flow.

Richardson stood before a media gaggle and again let the world know how she felt.

“I’m coming to speak, not just on my behalf but on all athletes’ behalves, that when you guys do interviews, y’all should respect athletes more,” Richardson said. “Y’all should understand whether they’re coming from winning, whether they’re losing, whatever the case may be. Athletes deserve way more respect than when y’all just come and throw cameras into their faces.”

Since Richardson burst on the scene as a vibrant symbol of youth athletics, alternative lifestyles, and challenger of pre-established notions of Black femininity, she has been a lightning rod of interest.

Her athletic achievements have not aligned with her pop-culture ubiquity, and now her failures at U.S. Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon, over the weekend mean she has failed to qualify for both the 100 meters and the 200 meters in the World Championships next month. Richardson finished with 22.47 in the 200 meters Sunday, placing her fifth in the semifinals and 10th-fastest of the field at the U.S. Championships.

Abby Steiner, an NCAA collegiate champion from the University of Kentucky, stole the show in the 200 final with the fastest time in the world this season, 21.80 seconds. Steiner beat out Tamara Clark and Jenna Prandini in the final 50 meters.

The race ends expectations that Richardson would win an individual medal at the Championships, and the sprinter wanted to control the post-race narrative, refusing to take any questions.

“Understand how an athlete operates and then ask your questions. Then be more understanding of the fact that they are still human, no matter just to the fact that y’all are just trying to put something out in an article to make a dollar. Thank you.”

The 22-year-old will not be able to join the U.S. team for next month’s world championships, although when she advanced to the semifinals on Saturday, she logged the 10th-fastest time of four heats at 22.69.

Now the hype-over-substance factor is creeping into the Sha’Carri brand. With American athletes like Allyson Felix being known for their performance more than their style and off-the-track lifestyle, Richardson needs more wins than hot takes.

She flopped at her signature event, the 100-meter competition, reversing the hope gained from her triumphant 200-meter showing at the inaugural N.Y.C. Grand Prix earlier in June, where she won in 22.38 seconds. She came in second in that meet’s 100 meters final in 10.85, her season-best time.

Richardson made national headlines after qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in the 100 meters and being derailed from competition after testing positive for cannabis. She was given a 30-day suspension which overlapped with the Tokyo games.

She was also left off the U.S. team as part of the relay pool, although the 4×100 relay competition would’ve come after she completed her suspension. With her focus and inconsistent performance generating the criticism she consistently receives, Sha’Carri sits in the gray zone of athletics: good enough to be discussed but falling just short of being considered overrated in the court of public opinion.

However, when the light is brightest, asking for empathy is a lot in a sports media cycle that celebrates and vilifies its winners and forgets its losers.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.