Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Double Standard for Jamaican Male & Female Athletes & Celebs: Sanya Richard-Ross

One of the realities of being Jamaican is that many of us have had to leave our beloved homeland in search of educational opportunities or employment. For some the decision was made by parents and others have made their own decisions. Reality is we all have to do what we can to survive. A soh it goh. I’ve noticed something really interesting. No one criticizes Donovon Bailey, Ben Johnson, Lynford Christie, and other male athletes for competing under the flags of other countries. No one dissed Jimmy Cliff or even Bob Marley when they living abroad. Shabba Ranks received a heros welcome when he returned to Jamaica after an extended absence. When it comes to female celebrities and athletes, it’s a different matter. Merlene Ottey received a TON of criticism for competing for Slovenia. The latest casualty is Sanya Richard-Ross. I had never heard of Sanya until the day she won the 400 metre at the Olympics. Yes, a lot of people were happy for her. There were also a lot of comments on Twitter, Facebook and even discussion board shoutbox calling her a traitor and a sell-out. No one was able or willing to produce proof that Sanya had said she wouldn’t run for Jamaica because Jamaica had not done anything for her, yet the name calling continued. Due to the fact that this type of criticism is only levied against females, primarily by other females, I suspect a lot of it is just plain jealousy. Jamaican-born Debbie Dunn who also competes for the Jamaica in international track and field events spoke of this phenomenon in a recent interview for the Gleaner.

The US offered support, so Dunn started to run in the red, white and blue around 2003. She didn’t labour much over the choice. “It wasn’t something I thought about,” admitted Dunn, who once incorrectly believed becoming an American citizen meant she no longer qualified to represent Jamaica. “It wasn’t like I said I didn’t want to run for Jamaica. I love running for my country. There’s no regret. It was an opportunity to run for the US and I took it. “When it comes down to it,” added Dunn, who by then had turned professional, “it’s a business.” Furthermore, others, like Sanya Richards-Ross, for years the world’s top female quarter-miler and reigning WCA champion, had made a similar choice but carried a much higher profile. Not all Jamaicans were happy Richards-Ross chose to run for the US. Dunn, meanwhile, was flying under the radar.

Sanya Richard-Ross has battled illness and fought back to win the 400 metre race for the USA at the London 2012 Olympics. Kudos to her. While she competes for the USA, she has not forgotten her Jamaican roots. A born again Christian, she has contributed to charitable causes in both Jamaica and the USA. boardite Blackstar brought the following information to the attention of the board.

The Sanya Richards Fast Track Program is the brainchild of Sanya Richards Ross and Andrew Post of the Fun 4 Kidz Foundation . Since its inception in 2007, the program seeks to combine sports with literacy and numeracy in a dynamic and outstanding initiative enjoyed by youth in Richards Ross’ native island home of Jamaica. The primary focus of the program is to enhance literacy and numeracy; develop students’ readiness for standardized tests; promote an active and healthy lifestyle through sports; and enhance social skills with regards to professionalism and employability. In 2009 three hundred and seventy five (375) children from the Kingston area were facilitated by the Sanya Richards Fast Track Program at a total of six different schools. Penwood, Bridgeport, Tarrant, Donald Quarrie and Tivoli joined Kingston High as beneficiaries of the Fun 4 Kidz – Sanya Richards Fast Track Program. The program meets for 20 weeks, twice a week for two hours per session. The Sanya Richards Fast Track Program provides the necessary infrastructure and materials for this program as well as for future school usage. These materials include sports equipment such as track and field starting blocks, batons, soccer goals, basketball hoops, reading and learning materials (including over 8,500 books), and work-related supplies.

 As we say in Jamaica, “Carry go bring come is a very dangerous thing!”. It can jeopardize the safety and  livelihoods of individuals and destroy years of hard work. If you are going to bash a well known personality, make sure you can back it up with independent, verifiable proof.

Yet the nasty comments continue. It’s interesting that some of the people criticizing her also live in the US or Canada and have dual citizenship. They are earning their living “a foreign yet criticize any female athletes or celebrities that make the same choice. Let’s not fall into the crabs in the barrel syndrome. Surviving as Jamaicans and Black people is hard enough. We should be encouraging and supporting one another instead of pulling one another down. Let’s be happy for Sanya Richard-Ross in her time of success. Big up Sanya Richard-Ross and all the other Jamaicans who continue to support Jamaica both at home and abroad. As Jamaicans, we are resilient and we all do what we have to survive. Let’s cut each other some slack.

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