Editorial: Sportsmanship is important in athletics

Published 9:03 pm Monday, October 15, 2018

Lately, sports media has been clogged with different stories about athletes being unsportsmanlike to their opponents on the field of play.

One of the biggest in recent weeks is the response by Khabib Nurmagomedov after defeating Conor McGregor at UFC 229. Chants and name-calling led to Nurmagomedov leaping out of the cage and attacking members of McGregor’s camp, while McGregor also pushed around some of his opponent’s group. Both Nurmagomedov and McGregor received suspensions for their actions.

Closer to home, disgruntled basketball player Jimmy Butler hoped the Minnesota Timberwolves would trade him before the beginning of the season. After what looked like a done deal sending Butler to the Miami Heat, the deal fell through and Butler showed up to practice. Butler would then lead the bench players past the starting five in a scrimmage as he yelled profanities at the general manager. Butler’s argument is that he is competitive and the rest of the team may not want to win.

But what these athletes may not realize is that their actions are picked up by every media outlet and digested by society — including children. As professional athletes act out and throw fits, youth, high school and college coaches have to deal with negative attitudes student athletes see from their favorite sports heroes. It may be taunting an opponent, talking back to a coach, yelling or being disrespectful. This needs to change.

There is no reason adults should be acting like the children who try to emulate them. Former NBA star Charles Barkley once said “I am not a role model.” The thing Barkley and other athletes need to realize is that, whether they like it or not, they are role models.

So, hopefully, future athletes will look to display better sportsmanship and encourage friendly competitive matches, because current trends are not beneficial.