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“Do Not Donate”: Sha’Carri Richardson Making a Dying Plea Surfaces Amidst Unfair Athlete Pay for Paris Olympics 2024

Published 04/13/2024, 2:30 PM EDT

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World Athletics’ groundbreaking announcement about awarding prize money to the Olympic gold medalists in Paris has caused quite a stir. Winners in each of the 48 track and field events in Paris would now be awarded a substantial prize of $50,000 (with relay teams sharing the prize). This move has divided opinions and also brought to light American athlete Sha’Carri Richardson’s comments about fair pay.

This move marks a significant departure from traditional Olympic practices and has swiftly garnered global attention. Notably, even legendary sprinter Usain Bolt, holder of eight Olympic gold medals, was among those who took notice. World Athletics has set aside a prize pot of $2.4 million from the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) revenue share allocation it receives every four years.

This will lead to a pay disparity between track and field athletes and those who come from different sports. Interestingly, Sha’Carri Richardson’s plea in 2023 highlighted a similar issue of athletes under Team USA as she claimed that they don’t receive any money from funds set up for players.

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On December 6, 2023, Sha’Carri Richardson boldly took to her Instagram story to share a post by Team USA’s official account dated November 25, 2023, which asserted, “100% of Donations to the Team USA Fund goes to the athletes and the high-performance programming that supports them.” However, Richardson disputed this with her caption, “Do not donate. The athletes that need this money don’t see it.”

Team USA states that athletes collectively receive approximately $2.5 million in funding, facilitated by contributions from donors and organizations, supplemented by opportunities for tuition, training, and travel grants. But despite this claim, Sha’Carri Richardson clapped back in her Instagram story caption alleging unfair pay. This statement showed Richardson’s assertion that the financial support purportedly allocated to athletes through donations wasn’t reaching those who needed it most. This wasn’t the first time Richardson spoke out on pay-related issues.

In June last year, Richardson’s plea, “Start this union that we most definitely deserve and earned,” resonated with her 2 million followers. She led a union of 160 disappointed athletes and field sprinters after the viewership policy was rolled out, which mandated that the 2023 US Outdoor Track and Field Championship was to be aired on CNC and USATF.tv on a subscription basis. Even retired gold-medalist sprinter Michael Johnson supported her, highlighting the ongoing issue of unfair athlete pay.

In 2022, a similar incident brought attention to pay disparities and financial challenges faced by athletes, with Sha’Carri Richardson at the forefront. It was noted in 2021 that only 20% of the top 10 athletes make over $50k annually, with the top runners earning up to $100k, while those in the 11th–25th position earn between $10k and $60k annually. Former athlete Aaron Kingsley Brown succinctly captured the dilemma by stating, “Imagine a profession where you need to be World Top 10 just to begin earning a decent wage.”

Sha’Carri Richardson echoed this statement on her Instagram stories, “The truth y’all don’t listen to!!! More athletes need to speak up and not be scared.”

Now the World Athletics’ historic decision has also divided opinion. Some have claimed that it will again lead to unfair pay across various sports. Legendary British rower Sir Steve Redgrave has called the decision unfair while Olympian Sebastian Coe has welcomed the move.

Is WA’s move unfair?

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Speaking to Daily Mail, five-time Olympic rowing champion Sir Steve Redgrave criticized the decision to give prize money to Olympic gold medallists in track and field. “It smacks a bit hard for the sports that can’t afford to do this. Rowing is in that situation. We struggle bringing sponsorship and finance into it. This separates the elite sports to the others like rowing, canoeing and most combat sports.”

Redgrave reasoning can be understood from the fact that a total of $540m was allocated to the 28 sports at the Tokyo Games with World Athletics receiving the most at $40m. On the other hand, four-time Olympic gold medal winner, and middle-distance runner, Sebastian Coe believes it is about time that the sport provided more to athletes.

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Coe said, “My view is that the world has changed. It’s really important that where possible we create a sport that is financially viable for our competitors. This is the beginning of that.”

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The prize money will extend to silver and bronze medalists from the Olympics in 2028 in Los Angeles. For now, there will be a lot more debate around whether this was the right move since only World Athletics seems to have enough funds to make this possible leaving others behind.

Given the issues raised by Sha’Carri Richardson in the past, will she come out and address the lack of pay disparity this time around?

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Written by:

Christaline Meyers

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Christaline Meyers is a senior Olympics writer at EssentiallySports who specializes in gymnastics and alpine skiing. Christaline is one of the acclaimed authorities in the coverage of 6x All-Around champion, Simone Biles. She has written extensively, covering every detail of Biles’s life stories as well as providing her perspective on Simone Biles’ Yurchenko Double Pike controversy.
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Edited by:

Sampurna Pal