Ricky and Stick Icky: Marijuana, Sport, and the Legibility/Illegibility of Black Masculinity

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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In this article, I examine the ways the popular press, and two sport documentaries construct narratives of Ricky Williams’ marijuana use, early retirement, and return to the National Football League. I argue that all of the texts in question, work to produce a dominant reading of Williams, as someone who is difficult to define, and it is because of inability to put Williams’s identity into a box, that his marijuana use, “strange” personality, and early retirement is used to shoe-horn him into tropes of the bad black athlete. Nonetheless, this paper draws on Mark Anthony Neal’s concept of illegible and legible black masculinity to argue that a re-scripting of these narratives can be used to imagine alternative forms of black masculinity the emphasizes empathy, sensitivity, emotional maturity, and a rejection of domination and material wealth. This analysis is situated within the changing landscape of marijuana legislation and the racial inequity in arrest rates for marijuana.

Dickerson is with the Dept. of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, United Kingdom.

Address author correspondence to Nikolas Dickerson at ndickerson@lincoln.ac.uk.
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