THE INTERVIEW: Lanni Marchant

THE INTERVIEW: Lanni Marchant
February-March 2017

There’s an unwritten rule in sports, in particular in amateur sports, that you should keep your mouth shut and play the game. In women’s sports, that code is unfairly magnified by infinity. But don’t tell that to London’s Lanni Marchant, the best female marathon and half-marathon runner in Canadian history. Marchant, 32, finished 25th in the women’s 10,000 metres and 24th in the women’s marathon at the Rio Games. The Canadian record holder in both events fought a very public battle with Athletics Canada and recently-fired head coach Peter Eriksson in order to run that double. What else would you expect from a criminal defence lawyer?
But here’s the thing that irks Marchant more than any backroom politics. When a male athlete speaks his mind, he’s pushing buttons with bravado. But quite often, when a female athlete speaks out for what she thinks is a just cause, she’s labelled a troublemaker – a wild card without credibility. At her blog, the Olympian writes, “While the skill and talent of elite athletes is appreciated, there’s still a double standard for female athletes at the top of their game.” Marchant writes candidly about the perception of women in sport, and how she deals with those “who seem to say female athletes can’t be feminine and taken seriously.”
In December 2016, Marchant mimicked a 2009 cover photo from iRun Magazine showing a shirtless Adam van Koeverden, winner of Olympic gold in kayaking, holding his sneakers while flexing his muscles. Her breasts were hidden in her photo (not that it should matter), but Marchant was heavily criticized for what some saw as a stunt. Marchant has been the target of haters who say her running outfits are scandalously skimpy. And she was seen as a troublemaker for playfully giving the one-finger salute – with a smirk on her face – in another iRun cover, even though that issue was a special Women’s Issue, and ran the cover text, “No Apologies, No Permission, It’s about F$@#&king Time!”
The latest topic of debate involving Marchant saw a war of words between the runner and Jeff Adams, a six-time world champion in wheelchair athletics and winner of 13 Paralympic medals. Adams supported Eriksson’s stint as athletics boss – in particular with how Eriksson handled Marchant’s bid to run those two races at Rio. Marchant remained critical of Eriksson’s handling of athletes. “A lot of us breathed a sigh of relief and maybe Athletics Canada can become more athlete centered now,” Marchant said of Eriksson’s departure. “I was hopeful for a change. I don’t think he was fulfilling everything we needed from a head coach.” Adams, meanwhile, lashed out at Marchant, calling her a “low-performing athlete” who is “just not competitive internationally. She was lapped at least twice in the 10,000 metres and finished around three kilometres behind the leaders in the marathon – that’s just so far off the pace that it’s unrealistic for her to ever even contemplate a top-16 performance.” Despite the fact Marchant is the best athlete in Canadian history in those two events, she still drew criticism. Rodney Dangerfield could certainly relate. Always taking the high road, Marchant responded, “In terms of his personal views on my athletic abilities, that’s all they are, his personal views. I know the calibre of athlete I am. I do not pretend to fully know or understand the demands of Paralympic competition, the depth of competition, or the issues of doping in those events etc., so I cannot and would not make comments about his or another athlete’s athletic abilities or accomplishments. We are all out here putting in hard work and trying our best to be our best.”
Whether she’s practicing law in Chattanooga, Tennessee, running at Springbank Park in London when visiting family, or speaking her mind online, Marchant will always be someone worth listening to – even when she hangs up her competitive sneakers. editor Jeffrey Reed recently had a lengthy conversation with Marchant, and discovered that, indeed, she’s a force to be reckoned with when tackling any number of conversation topics. Here’s that uncensored conversation.

Jeffrey Reed, Editor, Lanni, it’s not easy picking a questions to start an interview with you, because you appeal to such a large audience. You’re a world-class athlete, but you are also a world-class blogger, if you will. Your social media presence is fierce. So why don’t I pick up on that – your self-labelled ‘Fierce And Sexy’ persona. You’re no Kim Kardashian – you’re actually famous for far more than just being famous. Yet here we are, in 2017, and you draw much criticism for being outspoken. Is this a double standard?
Lanni Marchant: My social media use is very much like it was before I was running at his level. Whatever I was tweeting, or posting on Instagram or on Facebook, is Lanni. It was Lanni, and is always Lanni. So, when all of a sudden people felt that they had some right to comment on me because they’ve made me a public figure, well, all I’ve done is run fast. There’s this blend now of celebrity athlete – athlete first, celebrity second hopefully. If you’re doing it right you should always be the athlete first. I would be fine with that if it were across the board. Eugenie Bouchard is asked to twirl about her outfit, but would you ever go up to one of the NHL players, even when they are dressed nicely at an event, and pick on them for what they are wearing, or who they are wearing, or ask them to pose for a picture in any different way? With women, look at the statements that are made about us, about a rugby player or a softball player or one of our throwers.
Reed: Initial comments often move right past the athlete and right to the fashion show.
Marchant: This great, powerful woman is still reduced to, ‘Is she pretty or is she not?’ and for those of us that run in little bra tops and little bottoms, all of a sudden I’m not allowed to say, ‘Hey, when I cross that finish line and I set the Canadian record and it was a 28-year-old record, I have every right to ask you to comment and speak to me on my performance. If you like how my butt looks, that’s your prerogative. I’m not out there worrying about what my butt looks like while I’m doing it. By nature of what we do, our bodies end up formed a certain way, and for some people it is a pleasing look. I’m not out there showing that off because I want to have slo-mo videos of me acting like a Baywatch star. If ran a national record covered head to toe, I would still be saying the same thing. Don’t comment on what I’m wearing or how I look doing it. Comment on my performance. So yes, that tag, Fierce and Sexy: what I do is fierce and sexy, not how I look doing it.

By nature of what we do, our bodies end up formed a certain way, and for some people it is a pleasing look. I’m not out there showing that off because I want to have slo-mo videos of me acting like a Baywatch star.” – Lanni Marchant

Reed: I didn’t know you when you were a child athlete growing up in a large family here in London, but knowing you were a figure skater, I sense you were highly competitive even back then.
Marchant: I look back at what we used to do for our summer training, and now, as a professional runner, I do not know how I handled the training regimen. But for me, for my version of an athletic Lanni, there’s not an artistic merit tied to it. So I left skating for that reason. And I liked running. I liked crossing the finish line knowing I’d won. And at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter what I look like running. In skating, in gymnastics and in ballet, there is an artistic merit and you are judged on your look and how you interpret the music, etc. Nobody cares what I’m interpreting when I run. I just run.
Reed: You’re not afraid to make a statement, though. Take your recent mimicking of a 2009 cover photo from iRun Magazine. In your photo, you hide your breasts behind sneakers. It’s a parody, yet it’s a statement, and many have criticized you for what they see as a stunt.
Marchant: There are people who have commented on Adam van Koeverden’s body, because distance runners, I always joke – women, we train so hard to look like pre-pubescent boys. Men train so hard to look like pre-pubescent boys. So the average person isn’t going to look at an Olympic male marathoner and ooh and ah over his body. He’s very much appreciated for his athletic ability because by social standards, or our media standards, they’re not sexy bodies compared to what you may see in Men’s Health Magazine. They are not aesthetically pleasing. So, they get the other side of it where maybe in their real life they are insecure about how they look. But in their sporting life they look how they’re supposed to, and they are appreciated for that look. But for women, what our bodies look like once we’re really in shape, our game is sexy. When I’m in normal clothes, I feel like a little kid playing dress-up. So in my sport, I don’t get to be treated how I want to be as an athlete. And then when I’m off the field of play, when I’m a lawyer, when I’m out with my friends, then I still feel inadequate because now I don’t match what Elle Magazine and everyone is telling me I’m supposed to look like.
Reed: It sounds like you can’t please anyone but yourself. But in reality, as you mentioned, it’s about the sport and performance being sexy.
Marchant: In the article I wrote for I-Run, I was talking about the double standards, and the 17 different hats I have to wear when I’m out there competing now, and how my male counterparts don’t. It’s not to say that men don’t have body dysmorphia or don’t have comments made about their bodies. But Adam van Koeverden didn’t get comments about training shirtless. For women in sport, from the moment we start hitting puberty, our bodies end up everyone else’s. They’re not ours anymore. They are commented on, they are cat called for using them in sports. For a figure skater, going through puberty was the worst thing because it changed your rotation, it changed you as an athlete. You’re awkward in your normal life going through these changes and it’s affecting your sporting life. And at the same time, now you’re being judged in sports for how you look. It’s a bombardment for girls. I’ve never liked double standards so I am vocal about it, and I’ve been vocal about it for years. It’s just that my platform now is bigger so people are taking notice.
Reed: Talk about your childhood. You were one of seven children. You earned the moniker, Misfit Marchant for getting in trouble. You had to run laps around the parking lot at the ice rinks when you misbehaved.
Marchant: (Smiling) Yes, Misfit Marchant.
Reed:  Was it during your childhood that you were forced to find your voice amongst a large family?
Marchant: Actually, I’m quiet.
Reed:  I have a hard time believing that.
Marchant: When I was upset about something, they would ask, ‘Where’s Lanni?’ I would be off doing my own thing, like reading a book.
Reed: A fellow runner, Simon Whitfield, interviewed you about this and you said although you’re a people person, you reach a point where you need to escape and be by yourself. We’re very alike in that way.
Marchant: I make the comment, I’m human-ed out. I’m people-ed out. I need to be away. My mom raised us all to be strong individuals. Any time there was strife at school, if me or my siblings were being unfairly treated, my mom would send me in to the office. She would say, for example, ‘Shannon is not being allowed to compete in this track meet because they assumed she’d go to prom, so they gave her spot to somebody else even though she ran the fastest qualifying time.’ And I would say, I’ll go talk to them. That was my role.
Reed: Practicing to be a lawyer even back then.
Marchant: I wasn’t necessarily the loudest or most boisterous within the family in terms of shouting and ruling the roost. But I wouldn’t back down.
Reed:  You attended Jean Vanier public school, and St. Thomas Aquinas high school.
Marchant: We lived in Westmount. In Grade 8, they put me in a class with my younger sister who was in Grade 7 because we were still figure skating. We’d leave every day at 10 a.m. to go skate so it was easier for one teacher to handle both of us, for turning in assignments and such. And I caused a stink about it then.
Reed:  A young lawyer, indeed. I think today, you may not always state you are right, but you are not afraid to state your opinion if you think it’s worth being heard. Am I right?
Marchant: Yes. And I’m always willing to come to the table. I had an interesting lunch conversation last week about that. I come to the table giving you the benefit of the doubt. Take my appeal with Athletics Canada, for example.
Reed: You successfully fought for your right to run the marathon and half-marathon at Rio.
Marchant: My starting conversation with the head coach was, maybe you just think something’s in the criteria that isn’t. Maybe this is all a big misunderstanding, and we can start from there. And the moment I give you that out, the moment I’ve given you an opportunity to clarify, or to avoid any huge upset, and you don’t take it, well, then that was your own silly move. And now you’re going to get all of the prepared arguments that I have.
Reed: Remind me not to fight you in court.
Marchant: I always go in with intellect and I always go in ready to hear the other side out. And then, if they are not going to reciprocate, if they’re not going to take a moment to hear me out as well, well then, Lanni comes out.
Reed: I want to go back to issues of the day, but let’s talk about what propelled you into the spotlight to begin with, and that’s your ability to run a race at a world-class level. It was Londoner Fred Chapman who introduced you to running when you were 14? And you still love running at Springbank Park?
Marchant: Mr. Chapman new my family through my brothers because his sons played hockey with them. He was an avid runner.  There was a Turkey Trot, and we’d always run because of figuring skating anyways. But he invited my sister Randi and I to run, and she ran really well. We were really fit kids. And then every Saturday night he would call the house to see if Randi wanted to run Sunday morning. This went on for months. I was the homebody, and the one responsible for the youngest siblings. So typically on a Saturday night I’d be home. Mr. Chapman always called, and finally I said, I’ll run. And that was it. Randi started joining a bit more, too, and then mom would come out. But every Sunday I ran with Mr. Chapman. He introduced me to running intervals. He passed me off to London Western Track and Field Club, and that was important. He recognized that there was a talent or ability there, and instead of selfishly wanting to make me his athlete, he gave me the contact information.
Reed:  He had your interests at heart.
Marchant: Yes. I don’t think we see that a lot in kids’ sports. We see a lot of parents who want to self-coach, or who want to shop their kids around to try and find the best coach. Here is somebody who recognized something and wasn’t selfish in it at all. He gave me Dave Mills’ number at the London Western Track and Field Club, and Dave Mills has coached me ever since, for 17 years.

We see a lot of parents who want to self-coach, or who want to shop their kids around to try and find the best coach.” – Lanni Marchant

Reed: Having the same coach for that many years is rare in any sport today.
Marchant:  Sometimes I am accused of being loyal to a fault in other regards, but the loyalty I have for Dave is true and it’s pure. And the gratitude I have for Mr. Chapman is true. I was transitioning from figure skating. He was just so encouraging, would drive me to meets that I couldn’t get to on my own, would drive me home from school meets because he was a teacher in Dorchester at the time. So, between Fred Chapman and Dave Mills, my running career is very much tied to those men. Mr. Chapman came to the Pan Am Games (in 2015). When I was doing my lap with the flag, he surprised me he was there, and it was such a great moment. Here I am winning my first international games medal and the man who took my first steps with at Springbank Park was here with me.
Reed: Let’s jump ahead to Rio. I want to first ask about the warnings of Zika virus, and water contamination, not to mention violence. What were your views as you flew to Rio?
Marchant: I think the media coverage hurt the Olympics. It did. It hurt travel and tourism. It hurt Rio. That’s not to say there weren’t concerns down there. But it’s like travelling anywhere. I go to Kenya by myself every year to train. You travel smart, and you get the vaccines. But at the end of the day, everyone has to make their own decision. My mom and two of my sisters came to Rio. I did a fundraising campaign and was really, really grateful for the support the community gave to help me and part of my family. They are three little blondes, 100 pounds soaking wet, and they were in Copacabana, staying near the beach, running on the beach every day. And they were fine.
Reed: I guess as long as you weren’t an American swimmer, you were fine.
Marchant: Going back to what we were talking about, double standards, if a female athlete did anything similar to (Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Ryan Lochte), then her sponsors would be more upset.
Reed: Lochte has always been seen as a bad boy – a wild card, right?
Marchant: Yes, but he gets to be a wild card. But when Eugenie Bouchard is taking pictures because she’s into fashion …
Reed: She gets criticized for not concentrating on tennis.
Marchant: … her interests are valued less. He can go be a party boy, but he’s just a party boy. He’s ‘cool.’ A girl posts similar photos and she’s a ‘slut.’ She’s less attractive to sponsors. And heaven forbid she’s trying to date. Then all of the sudden she’s less. She’s not marriage material. Whereas Ryan Lochte absolutely is still held to a higher regard.
Reed: It’s 2017 and we’re still dealing with this. Will it ever change?
Marchant: You have to remember, my event, the women’s marathon, has been in the Olympics for as long as I’ve been alive. I’m 32. That’s not that long. Our history in sport for women is so, so short, when you think about it. I’ve had women commenting on how, when they were running in school, they weren’t allowed to race further than 800 metres. That’s still within recent generations. We’re not talking about somebody who is a great-great grandmother. We have a place at the table now. We can be lawyers, we can be doctors. But if you look at the wages, they’re still not the same. We’re not there yet. This is going to sound terrible, but with your average white man, it’s like, ‘OK, you have a seat at the table now, stop your complaining.’ Well, sitting there still isn’t making things equal. And I’m not asking you to do affirmative action or reverse sexism. I’m asking for the same as you would give a man sitting here.

“(American swimmer Ryan Lochte) can go be a party boy, but he’s just a party boy. He’s ‘cool.’ A girl posts similar photos and she’s a ‘slut.’ – Lanni Marchant

Reed: You’re competing on the playing field, yet you’re still forced to compete for equal rights. It’s a constant battle.
Marchant:  The other tag that’s become popular with me is, I’m done asking. We’re demanding our spot now. We’re demanding an equal spot. The true Lanni isn’t going to be seen as girl-like, lady-like, feminine, polite person. A guy can come in and make a demand and he’s strong, he’s an advocate. A girl? Well, I had better be mindful of my words, but I want my message to come across. It’s not whiney, it’s not bitchy. But if I’m seen as impassioned, then I’m seen as emotional. If he is impassioned, then he’s a force to be reckoned with. That’s where we are now, and you would like us to be a lot further down the road than we are.
Reed: As a journalist following your career and your social media presence, I don’t see you as pushy or emotional. I don’t deserve a pat on the back for making that statement. That’s just the way it is. But unfortunately a lot of times, a woman’s voice is silenced because she is not taken as seriously as a man. So yes, emotional is a good word to describe how many see women who make a statement. You obviously concur.
Marchant: Yes. When I was preparing to speak to the House of Commons (video here), talking about women in sport, I stated, OK, it’s 2016 and we’re still having to have heritage committee meetings on, ‘How are we doing with women in sport: are we there yet? Have we met any goals that we had set?’ The previous commissions met 18 years ago, so almost two decades ago, and you want to touch base and see where we’re at with things? If you watched it, you saw the part where I said, if we’re going to sit and talk about it, then I don’t get the point, and I’m sorry if that comes across as ungrateful for the fact that you’ve invited me to speak here.
Reed: Again, you used your platform to speak your own voice.
Marchant: My concern was that I was walking into something where it was supposed to be, ‘Rah, rah, rah, girls in sport!’ And I was there saying, we’re not there yet! We’ve come a long way. We had a great Olympic Games. But the question that I raised was, if our (female) swimmers had not done so well, would the coverage have been 50/50 male/female? Because even with our women’s team dominating, the coverage was still only 50/50. I had a very candid talk with another man involved in media, and we were talking about women’s soccer and rugby sevens, and that if they had been performing poorly, the coverage immediately would not have been shown.
Reed:  There would not have been any air time given to them.
Marchant: Not that it was historical! It was a first time rugby sevens being played by women as part of the Olympics. Our women should have been able to go there and poop the bed, and still be a story because it was historic, and they’re out there competing against the best in the world. And you know what? Canadian, we’re not always the best, but we’re trying. We have some very talented athletes, but we’re not the U.S. And until you start funding us and treating us like the American athletes, you can’t expect us to fully compete against them.
Reed: It’s economics, it’s a different mentality when it comes to athletics and their importance, plus it’s a matter of population numbers. Let’s talk about funding, then. Because of your finish at the Rio Games, and because of your age, you’re not getting the funding that you think you deserve, in particular as it relates to what other athletes are getting.
Marchant: Typically, Athletics Canada nominates which athletes get the funding, but the funding comes from Sport Canada. I’m 32, and based on my carding last year, funding that comes from Sport Canada, with Athletics Canada setting the criteria, there are letters that get sent out to those of us who are over 30, telling us what our restrictions are. And if we don’t meet them, don’t bother for next years’ funding.
Reed: Never mind you are a Canadian record holder, right?
Marchant: Yes.
Reed: So here you are, running a historic double at the Olympic Games and they won’t bend their rules for funding. It’s absurd
Marchant: The argument is, my 2:28 marathon doesn’t make me competitive against the world. It doesn’t matter that I finished seventh at the New York City marathon. It doesn’t matter that in the historic double I was 24th and 25th, and it doesn’t matter that I was a bronze medalist at the Pan Am Games.
Reed: What can you do to fight these funding regulations?

Photo: David McColm.

Marchant: Be the vocal yokel that I am. The frustrating thing at the House of Commons, we were talking a bit about funding because they were shocked when I mentioned that as a 32-year-old woman, I’m not going to be funded based on that fact. When you look at the criteria, when you run me through their system of points, I actually was one of the athletes that had the most points. The only thing that kept me from funding (in 2016) is that I was supposed to be Top 15 in Rio in the 10,000 metres. Had I been four years younger, they wouldn’t have put the same restriction on me. Athletes who were younger, if they had any such restriction, all they just had to do was make the team. But I had to make the team and perform to a certain level. It was an unfair burden in comparison to anyone else.
Reed: Why are we not just supporting our best athletes, period?
Marchant: If the bottom falls out on me in this next year, let’s say because of the historic double, it takes me a year to really get back into full training, well, without any financial assistance, without any help, without access to the gyms and the team Canada doctors, everything that gets pulled when you lose carding – and it’s not just the $1,500 a month you lose. You lose the cell phone plan, so now you’re on the hook to have a phone. And you lose access to the sports institutes, you lose access to the health insurance, you lose all of these other things.
Reed:  So, you have none of those things?
Marchant: None of those things now. When I go to Kenya every year, I pay out of pocket for that. So, that’s the flight over and that’s the camp environment.
Reed:  The Kenya trip has become an annual training camp for you.
Marchant: Every year since 2012, and it ends up being about $1,500 to $2,000 to fly over. It’s about $2,000 for the camp. It’s about another $500 to pay my pacers that are there to train with me. But the UK Athletics Association athletes are there and their trip is completely covered and paid for by their federation.
Reed:  There’s no way to make any sense of this.
Marchant: It doesn’t. Money doesn’t mean everything, because I come from a family that has no money and I was able to get to this level. But if you want to talk about lawyer Lanni and what my earning potential can be, it’s substantially higher. But I didn’t get into law to make money. As I said, I came from a family with no money and I was tired of seeing families like mine not have the same access to justice because you can’t afford lawyers. That’s why I got into law. So, I haven’t made much money as a lawyer and I probably won’t ever make much money as a lawyer.
Reed:  Are you still paying off your student loans?
Marchant: I’m actually finally on the other side of it, but it’s because I still live like a college kid. I don’t own anything.
Reed: I got that impression after watching some of your videos, hanging out with your roommates, going for beers.
Marchant: I am very frugal, and very chill, but if I wanted to, I could go and interview and get a good job in a good law firm.

I came from a family with no money and I was tired of seeing families like mine not have the same access to justice because you can’t afford lawyers. That’s why I got into law.” – Lanni Marchant

Reed: You’re with a firm in Chattanooga, Tennessee where you did your undergrad. And you attended the University of Ottawa, and Michigan State University. You have a degree in Economics, and two Law degrees.
Marchant: My undergrad is Economics, and I have a Canadian Law degree and an American Law degree. And I’m admitted to the Tennessee bar and Federal bar, Southeastern District. I’m a criminal defence attorney. So, my earning can be substantially higher if I’m not trying to represent my country.
Reed: Do you want to compete at the Tokyo Games in 2020?
Marchant: That’s a goal.
Reed: I want to get back to your social media platforms, because you just might be Canada’s most outspoken high-profile athlete. I’ve noticed you like to quote Marilyn Monroe. (Ed. Note: One recent quote from Monroe reads, ‘Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she’ll conquer the world.’)Marchant: I quote Marilyn Monroe a lot, because for somebody who was solely judged on what she looked like, she had a lot to say.
Reed:  She was a deep thinker. I just finished reading C. David Heymann’s book, Joe and Marilyn: Legends In Love, recounting her relationship with Joe DiMaggio.
Marchant: For some reason I’ve always been a fan. I remember Grade 3 and being in Ottawa for summer skating, and making my grandma rent a bunch of Marilyn Monroe movies on VHS. I don’t know how I discovered who she was, but as a 10 year old, I was completely enthralled.
Reed:  It sounds like as a kid you had an old soul. Still do.
Marchant: Maybe. But (Monroe) was a good example for me of what she needed to do to make it in her industry, and of what she really wanted to do. And I think for me, I don’t want to make a sacrifice to make it in the sporting world, and also make it in the legal world. My purpose was to get into law because I believe in equal access. I’m not going to sign with a huge firm, do an area of law that doesn’t affect change, doesn’t benefit people. Because that someday that I want to do these good things, well, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. There’s no someday. Either say it now or don’t, or you’ll realize you’ll never say it.
Reed:  Carpe diem.
Marchant: Yes! My niece is 11 and she’s a great soccer player. I don’t want her to be 32 and asking somebody if she should stay in sports or if she should go into a professional career.
Reed: Do you think some people are puzzled by you, because you’re a criminal lawyer who also isn’t afraid to speak her mind on social media? Some would make the same argument as it relates to Donald Trump. Perhaps people are afraid of you because they don’t understand you.
Marchant: Because of that middle finger picture, some said, ‘Well, her law firm is not going to like that.’ I said, why don’t you call my law firm and ask? There was this assumption that if I’m a professional female, I don’t get to be Lanni. But in the sporting world, you guys want me to be Lanni. We want you, but we want the version of you we’ve all created in our heads. If you’re this lawyer, you’re serious. And you’re a professional athlete as well. So, there should be professionalism across my forehead all the time. So when I’m out for beers with my friends, that isn’t allowed. I’m not allowed to have my own life.
Reed: Even the fact a woman is tweeting how she goes out for beers can confuse some people, right?
Marchant: ‘Distance runners drink beer? You had a beer before your race?’ (Laughing) And then there’s the middle finger. People can disagree with me, but it’s my social media, it’s my Twitter. If you don’t like what I’m putting up there, don’t follow me, don’t look at it. I’m open for discussion if you want to e-mail me and have a discussion on something. But if you’re just going to tweet and ask, ‘What am I supposed to tell me 10-year-old daughter? We were fans but now with your middle finger – gasp!’
Reed:  You actually had people ask you that?
Marchant: Yes. So I remove them so they can’t follow me. I don’t block them, I just make them unfollow me.
Reed:  I’ve blocked people who leave no room for intelligent conversation.
Marchant: The way I see it, it’s my social media and it’s my message, and if you don’t like my message, that’s fine, I’m not ramming it down your throat. But, I’m not asking to raise your 10-year-old daughter. That’s your job, it’s not mine. I’m hoping that she, from this, would understand and that you would teach her that I’m a 32-year-old woman and I’m allowed to do what I want. I’m trying to make it so that she is truly allowed to do what she wants when she’s 32. So, you might not like the way I’m going about it, but, let it be a teachable moment for your daughter, that yeah, you know what? The middle finger is offensive, and I would ground my niece if she shot one out. But when she’s 32 I hope that she feels like she can. And that’s what I get frustrated about. I’m not asking to raise your children. I’m happy to be a role model, but I’m not a role model in the way you think I should be. I’m going to fail trying to meet your expectations. I fail meeting my own half the time so, I can’t meet everyone else’s expectations. Your 10-year-old daughter shouldn’t be on Twitter in the first place. But if she sees my middle finger, then explain to her, ‘You know what honey, that’s really not appropriate and we would like you not to do that. But, her message here is, you guys can keep saying mean things to me, you can keep bullying me, but I’m not going to back down.

I’m happy to be a role model, but I’m not a role model in the way you think I should be.” – Lanni Marchant

Reed: Wrapping up, let me state, I’m sure there are haters out there who say, ‘Lanni’s shelf life as an elite athlete is short. Soon she’ll only voice her opinions in a court of law.’ But I don’t see it that way. Rather, this is just the beginning for you. A lot of thought goes into what you say, and it’s worth listening to. You are a role model.
Marchant: Law will always have a place in my life. I can’t tell you if it’s a bigger passion than running or not, but it’s something that I’m very passionate about. But I don’t see myself going back and working full-time with a firm. However, if I do, it will be in a different facet, it will be doing more stuff like this. Because this stuff matters.
Reed: Are you the most closely watched Canadian athlete today? The argument could be made that you are.
Marchant: I don’t set out for it to be like that.
Reed: I think of Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban as another Canadian athlete not afraid to voice his opinion and to just be himself.
Marchant: I guess I’m in good company.
Reed: Are you aware of that image of you?
Marchant: No. Like I said, I don’t necessarily like any spotlight. But if it means my message is getting out … but if you ask my family, I’m actually really shy.
Reed: I tell my wife I’m shy by nature, but she tells me I’m full of crap.
Marchant: It takes a lot for me when I have to walk into a room – takes a lot of self talk to not be shy. My instinct isn’t to walk into a room and say, everybody look at me! I would much rather sneak in, see what’s going on and chit chat, let my words sink in. I call myself a sneaky ninja.
Reed: Like the woman giving the finger in a magazine cover, all the while grinning this sneaky grin.
Marchant: Look at my face in the picture. The smirk is Lanni. The middle finger just happened to be there. It’s just a cheeky grin – hey guys, surprise, this tiny little Canadian girl has something big and important to say.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and

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