In the spirit of the “Thug” controversy over the past couple of weeks with the Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman, Jon Gugala wanted to take a different look at the issue.
“Thug” Phoebe Wright: “I’m the best front-runner in the game”
“DangerSmoke” explains her explosive comments on Ajee’ Wilson before the 2014 USA Indoor Championships
by Jon Gugala
After finishing her workout at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle last Sunday, Phoebe Wright, the 2010 USA Indoors 800-meter champion, addressed a crowd of reporters on her thoughts regarding the upcoming 2014 USA Indoor Championships.
“So Phoebe, let me ask you, the final turn, take me through it,” one asked her.
No one expected her response.
“Well, I’m the best front-runner in the game,” Wright, 25, said. “When you try me with a sorry kicker like Ajee’, that’s the result you’re going to get. Don’t ever talk about me!”
It took a second to register. Wright, who won the women’s National 800-meters race at the 2013 Prefontaine Classic, was referring to 19-year-old Ajee’ Wilson, the runner-up. The two had a fierce rivalry in 2013, and will meet at USA Indoors.
“Who was talking about you?” a journalist asked.
“Ajee’!” Wright said. “Don’t open your mouth about the best. Or I’m going to shut it for you real quick. DangerSmoke!”
Wright then stormed off the track, driving home still wearing her spikes.
While initially not understood, multiple sources close to Wright and her team, the Beasts, say “DangerSmoke” refers to the official Beasts karaoke team name. Wright allegedly put “Phoebe” on the list to sing one evening, but when her turn came, sources say, it read “DangerSmoke.” Beasts teammate Katie Mackey encouraged it, and the team adopted the name to describe their impassioned vocal performances at Seattle bars.
Since Wright’s comments last Sunday, the media backlash has been severe. Many track and field journalists labeled Wright a “thug,” saying her conduct was insulting to the long and proper image of track and field in the U.S. and abroad.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Wright addressed the use of the word to describe her.
“Things get heated out there on the track. I mean, you’re part of a catfight out there. It’s brutal. Elbows get thrown,” she said. “When you win, sometimes you have to just be ‘you’ in interviews.”
Brooks Beasts head coach Danny Mackey, also present, said, “I think [Wright’s comments] were taken a little out of context. Phoebe, she’s a human being, she gets a little bit emotional sometimes.
“I always have my athletes’ backs, but I definitely wouldn’t want her to talk that way. It sets a bad precedent. Phoebe and I will talk about it, for sure.”
Mackey went on to say, however, that his athlete’s comments are an example of the fierce psyche required to compete in track at the highest national and international levels.
“Track and field athletes are the most intense athletes out there. They’re more intense than football players,” he said, “and the 800 is one of the more intensive events because it’s over quickly. Phoebe’s got something to prove in 2014, so her emotions just got the best of her, I think.”
He went on to say, “Go Seahawks.”
Albuquerque, the site of the 2014 USA Indoor Championships on February 21-23, 2014, is 1,990 miles from East Rutherford, N.J.
Wilson was not immediately available for comment.
Wright said her comments were definitely influenced by Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman’s fiery post-game remarks to FOX Sports correspondent Erin Andrews on January 19.
“How many interviews have you heard, ‘Oh, that felt great, the competition out here was just so great’?” Wright asked. “It’s just vomit-worthy. And that’s not what they’re thinking on the inside.
“It’s nice to get a teeny glimpse of what’s going on in an athlete’s head. We’re all kind of hard-wired to have that over-competitive spirit, but it’s not considered classy to show it. It’s almost considered arrogant. But every single person on that line has that confidence that Richard Sherman has–at least if they plan on winning, anyway.”