After drawing inspiration from 2019 The Root 100 honoree Allyson Felix as a youth, sprinter Gabby Thomas ditched softball and accepted her fate as the future of USA Track and Field. Since committing to the sport, the Florence, Mass., native has battled health scares and a two-year provisional suspension before she eventually earned her first Olympic berth in June when she finished with the second-fastest 200-meter dash of all time during the Olympic Trials.
“21.61 seconds—best to ever do it behind FloJo. AND I’M AN OLYMPIAN!!!!!!” she tweeted after her historic win. “So so so grateful to everybody—especially my coach. Sending love to everyone who has supported me up to this point and to my new supporters. We’re just getting started.”
Considering everything Thomas has been through in order to make her first Olympic games—including Tokyo banning spectators and declaring a state of emergency due to COVID-19—her excitement is completely understood. But in light of what many have perceived as an endless succession of anti-Black rulings—a ban on swimming caps specifically designed to protect textured hair, protests and demonstrations are forbidden at the podium, Namibian sprinters Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi being disqualified from competing due to naturally high testosterone levels, the whole Sha’Carri Richardson debacle—there are plenty of Black folks who want no parts of supporting the Olympic games this summer.
In response to this wave of criticism, Thomas took to Twitter to remind everyone that while their concerns are valid, there are still plenty of Black athletes competing that still need our love and support.
“It really hurts to see so many black people choosing not to watch the Olympics this year,” she tweeted. “There are so many black athletes who have put in YEARS of hard work for this moment—myself included. We want your support.”
She then reminded everyone that their ire at the Olympics games is misdirected, as the International Olympic Committee has been behind many of the rulings that will deprive us of Black excellence in Tokyo.
“Additionally, I worry some of the anger and disdain may be misplaced,” she continued. “The ‘Olympics’ and those at the IOC have nothing to do with current events taking place.”
For her sake, thankfully, she seems to have plenty of Black supporters who see past the bullshit and choose to remain in her corner.
“If y’all thought I was going to miss Gabby Thomas, Simone Biles, Jordan Chiles, Allyson Felix, Athing Mu, Coco Gauff, Simone Manuel, et al you were sadly mistaken,” tweeted @CLHowellreads.
It’s incredibly difficult to support any event when proper representation is already an issue, but those difficulties only magnify when it’s abundantly clear that white supremacy is the secret sauce in the Olympics’ governing body. So until these issues regarding anti-Blackness and blatant misogynoir are properly addressed, Thomas’ pleas will unfortunately fall on deaf ears.