Anthony Mackie Calls Out Punishments on Naomi Osaka, Sha'Carri Richardson in ESPY Awards Monologue

Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie

Kevin Mazur/Getty

The 2021 ESPY Awards kicked off with a bang on Saturday, thanks to host Anthony Mackie.

Mackie, 42, started the show by making jokes about the year in sports, at one point landing a punchline about the recent sanction placed on sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, who was suspended from the U.S. Olympic team after a positive marijuana test.

Joking about the ceremony being held on a rooftop, he said, "The greatest celebration of sports is back! We up here on a rooftop in New York City. Man, we're so high they wouldn't let us compete in the Olympics," as 21-year-old Richardson laughed in the audience.

Later, Mackie added further comments about Richardson being barred from the Olympic team, saying, "USA Track & Field: How you mess it up, dog? How do you justify banning Sha'Carri Richardson for smoking weed? Weed is a de-hancing drug — it doesn't make you do anything but want to watch another episode of Bob's Burgers. You never saw Snoop Dogg run anywhere!"

"I don't know how you justify not letting her run," he continued, adding, "And I don't know how you punish Naomi Osaka," referencing the tennis standout, 23, being fined for skipping media obligations at the French Open in May, citing mental health concerns.

"For prioritizing her mental health," said Mackie. "That's crazy. I'm no tennis exec, I don't know, but if my sport had one of the most popular and marketable athletes on the planet, you know what I would do? I would probably make sure she felt comfortable and respected. But hey, what do I know, right? I'm just Captain America."

Mackie also poked fun at NBA star Trae Young's haircut in his monologue, as well as Kentucky Derby-winning horse Medina Spirit failing a post-race drug test, among other jokes about athletes in the headlines.

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The Marvel actor teased his funny side in a short video released Friday, showing off impressions of basketball stars James Harden and LeBron James, as well as ESPN's own Stephen A. Smith.

Ahead of the hosting gig, Mackie said in a statement that he was "excited" to take the helm of the annual awards show and "celebrate the gift that sports have been this past year."

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier actor added, "They have allowed us to cheer on our favorite teams and athletes together at a time when many felt so alone. As an avid sports fan myself, I can't wait to meet some of my favorite athletes and celebrate their accomplishments!"

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In 2020, Russell Wilson, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird shared virtual hosting duties amid the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The year prior, comedian and actor Tracy Morgan brought the funny to the ESPYS show, which has been presented every year since 1993.

This year's show will feature the presentation of top awards like the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, the Pat Tillman Award for Service, and the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.

The 2021 ESPY Awards, hosted by Anthony Mackie, are broadcasting live on ABC from The Rooftop at Pier 17 at the Seaport in New York City on Saturday.