Every now and then, sports produce a lightning rod. A polarizing athlete that encompasses all of society’s triggers – race, gender, and creed. Usually, that athlete is Black, which means that invisible battle lines can be drawn down the middle – dividing us by skin color. But, every so often, that athlete can be constantly ridiculed by “one of their own” due to that person’s own self-hatred or their longing to be accepted by the “other side.”
Sha’Carri Richardson is not only “that girl” – she’s the athlete in this example. And the corny individual that’s obsessed with being her foe in the media in hopes of being revered in white America is Emmanuel Acho.
“You can’t tell people, ‘they gotta see me’ in a race and then be behind them the whole time. They literally can’t see you,” Acho tweeted after Richardson finished last in the 100m dash at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday posting a time of 11.14 – which was nowhere near the times of 10.86 or 10.72 she’s produced in races past.
Pointing out that Richardson’s brashness was on display before and after a race she got embarrassed in isn’t the issue here. Especially since a Nike commercial aired minutes before the race, in which Richardson discussed what “she was about to do,” as she claimed she’d be “at the finish line” if anybody needed her.
I even tweeted about her lack of production under the spotlight.
However, there’s a difference between cracking jokes and intentionally tearing a person down, as it’s possible to celebrate Richardson for who she is, and will be, while also challenging her, as my colleague Donovan Dooley wrote Sunday. Acho does the latter, and there’s a pattern here. And luckily enough, people are starting to take notice.
“Legalizing weed in track and field competition is all good if you’re running a straight line. Legalizing weed in track and field is terribly dangerous if you throw the javelin. Where do we draw the line?” Acho wrote in a now-deleted tweet last month. He then got on TV and talked about how the rules that got Richardson bounced from running in the Olympics were “stupid,” but then said “you’ve still got to adhere to the stupid rules. … Let’s please not make this racial” – even though it was.
Two of Acho’s former colleagues at ESPN – Ryan Clark and Clinton Yates – have taken notice of how Acho plays to white audiences to the detriment of Black athletes.
“Doubling down on this hate for @itskerrii huh? Not sure what she did to you, but dang I hope you bring her in for some of those comfortable azz conversations you have. Those folks seem to get a ton more grace from you. Just seems odd you go at this young sister so often,” Clark tweeted.
“You constantly dissing black women on main aint funny. At all,” wrote Yates.
The lack of grace that Clark mentioned has been easy to spot given Acho’s past acts, as Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man is a book and social media series of Acho’s that coddles white people, allowing them to freely discuss their white guilt and “apologize” for their willful ignorance. When Acho was brought in to host ABC’s The Bachelor’s “After the Final Rose” earlier this year – due to there being a racist female contestant on the show and the current host being removed for attempting to belittle the racism – this is how he responded, with grace, to the white people at the heart of the scandal.
“Seek understanding first before we seek tension,” is what he said about the contestant.
“People need to give him the opportunity, the grace and the time to do the work. And then they need to receive the work he does,” is what he stated about the host.
Now, check out his response to Yates on Twitter after he got called out.
“I’m not dissing black women. I’m checking unmerited arrogance. Thanks.”
Either Acho is a liar, or he has a bad memory. Because earlier this month he posted a 4-minute video in which he tried to make a case against one of the greatest achievements in sprinting history – as he’s now taking issues with Flo-Jo’s world record time of 10.49 in the 100m dash, 33 years after the fact.
In case you forgot, like Richardson, Flo-Jo was a brash and unapologetic Black female sprinter that was also a lightning rod.
Do you see the pattern, yet?
For those of you that find it odd that Emmanuel Acho is skipping down the path that Jason Whitlock paved as “the happy-go-lucky Black men who belittles Black athletes in favor of white acceptance,” don’t be. It isn’t an act or a minstrel show. It’s purely organic, as this is who they are. So, don’t be surprised if you never see Acho have an “uncomfortable conversation” with the likes of Sha’Carri Richardson or Naomi Osaka. They’re his punching bags, not his audience. Trust me, Acho would rather sit down with Tim Tebow or Hope Solo to “seek understanding.”