On the verge of his first NBA Finals, Suns star Chris Paul, unsolicited, gave strong support to suspended U.S. track champion track Sha’Carri Richardson.
Richardson, 21, received a one-month suspension for testing positive for marijuana after winning at the U.S. Olympic Trials and won’t be allowed to run in the 100-meter event at the Olympics in Tokyo.
Paul, president of the NBA Players Association, called it “a messed-up situation.’’
Asked about advancing to his first NBA Finals later this week against either the Bucks or Hawks, Paul changed the subject to the Olympic track ban.
“I’m excited, and I’ll worry about it when it gets there,’’ Paul said on a Zoom call Saturday after Phoenix’s practice. “But something that’s been on my mind a lot too is the situation with Sha’Carri Richardson. One thing that remains true and that’s a constant is change. For her, to see how much work she’s put in the last few years and for me to be an Olympic athlete and know what that means, it’s not right. It’s not right.’’
Paul said he hopes to speak to Richardson to offer moral assistance. Richardson has cited using marijuana to deal with mental-health issues.
“For her to work her tail off the way she has, you can’t tell someone how to deal with trauma, how to deal with mental health,’’ Paul added. “Marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug. I’ll worry about the Finals when it gets to it, but the Olympics is something that comes along every four years. I feel like she deserves her opportunity.”
Paul feels a special rooting interest as Richardson went to LSU. Paul played his first six seasons in nearby New Orleans.
“You could see when she speaks how genuine she is, and there’s a spirit to her,’’ Paul said. “When you follow sports as a fan, you find people you root for, and I root for her. It’s a messed up situation. The powers that be [have] to understand the changes. As part of the union, I see how we changed the way things work and operate. It’s not right.’’
Richardson could still be eligible for the 4×100 relay team in Tokyo, as the event will be held after July 27 when her ban ends.