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Nikolas Dickerson

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.