- Anthony Mackie hosted the 2021 ESPY Awards on Saturday night.
- Mackie called out Sha’Carri Richardson’s US Olympics ban over a positive marijuana test.
- He also defended Naomi Osaka and her choice to skip recent media conferences.
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Actor Anthony Mackie spoke out about Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension from the Olympics and Naomi Osaka’s media blackout in his 2021 ESPY Awards opening speech.
Mackie, who hosted the awards show Saturday night in New York City, started his speech by saying: “The greatest celebration of sports is back! We up here on a rooftop in New York City. Man, we’re so high they wouldn’t let us compete in the Olympics.”
Richardson was shown in the audience reacting to Mackie’s opener by seeming to smile and then cover her face.
The American sprinter, 21, tested positive for THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, at the US Olympic Team Trials, where she finished first in the 100-meter race and became one of the fastest women in America. Following her positive test, USA Track & Field suspended Richardson from competing at the Tokyo Olympics.
Later in his awards show speech, Mackie went on to defend Richardson.
“USA Track & Field: How you mess it up, dog?” Mackie said. “How do you justify banning Sha’Carri Richardson for smoking weed? Weed is a de-hancing drug – it doesn’t make you do anything but want to watch another episode of ‘Bob’s Burgers.’ You never saw Snoop Dogg run anywhere! I don’t know how you justify not letting her run.”
Mackie continued, speaking about Osaka, who was named the Best Athlete in Women’s Sports at the 2021 ESPYs.
“I don’t know how you punish Naomi Osaka for prioritizing her mental health,” the Marvel actor said.
In May, Osaka, 23, revealed on social media that she would not “do any press” during the French Open tournament because “people have no regard for athletes’ mental health.” She was fined $15,000 after refusing to attend a press conference at the French Open.
During his ESPY monologue, Mackie said of Osaka’s fine: “That’s crazy. I’m no tennis exec, I don’t know, but if my sport had one of the most popular and marketable athletes on the planet, you know what I would do? I would probably make sure she felt comfortable and respected. But hey, what do I know, right? I’m just Captain America.”
The tennis player later took the stage to deliver an acceptance speech for her ESPY Award, marking her first public appearance since withdrawing from the French Open and Wimbledon.
Osaka is set to represent Team Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I have never competed in an Olympic Games before, but I can say, as an athlete, I’m excited to be competing in the most prestigious athletic event in the world,” Osaka told Insider’s Rachel Hosie in June. “Like most competitors, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity my entire life, and the fact that they are being held in my birthplace of Japan, I just feel like I can’t stop smiling about it.”