What happened to good sportsmanship?

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What's happening: The NBA Finals and Women's World Cup have drawn an enormous amount of press over the past week. But the conversation has expanded beyond the typical talk of competition on the court or pitch. Controversial behaviors — from athletes and fans — have sparked a broader conversation about what is fair game and what is out of bounds.

The U.S. women's national soccer team opened their World Cup run on Tuesday with a record-setting 13-0 win over Thailand. The U.S. team kept pressing forward despite a massive lead and celebrated boisterously after scoring in the final minutes of play.

On Monday, some Toronto Raptors fans cheered when Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant fell to the floor with an injury to his Achilles tendon during the fifth game of the NBA Finals.

Why there's debate: Heated discussion over these incidents extended beyond sports news into the mainstream media. When viewed together, these conversations comprise a reckoning about the way players and fans behave on the field, in the stands and on social media.

Some argue the spirit of sportsmanship, respect for opponents and the humanity of players has been squashed by an intense drive to win. Others counter that contentious moments have always been a fundamental part of sports and that players and fans shouldn't compromise in the pursuit of victory.


The U.S. Women's National Team disrespected their opponent by celebrating in a blowout win.

“This was disgraceful coming from the United States. … It’s disrespectful, it’s disgraceful and hats off to Thailand for holding their head high." — Kaylyn Kyle, TSN

The U.S. had every right to run up the score against Thailand.

"Sometimes, when you’re the best damn team in the world, you just gotta go out and be the best damn team in the world." — Rodger Sherman, The Ringer

FIFA is at fault for pitting such unbalanced teams against each other.

If somebody must be blamed for what was, to many, a kind of sporting debacle … it’s probably the sport’s global governing body." — Leander Schaerlaeckens, Yahoo Sports

The celebrations of the U.S. players were not disrespectful.

"These women weren’t doing anything to tear anyone else down, they were simply doing things to build themselves up — and, in a world where there is so much sadness, we shouldn’t be criticizing hardworking women from expressing joy because they’re seeing that hard work pay off." — Katherine Timpf, National Review

Pre-planned celebrations undercut the organic joy of a spectacular performance.

"We can celebrate goals. American loves winning and we certainly put on quite the show the other night. It was a comprehensive performance. It was a beautiful performance by the United States. But I still think we can celebrate those goals and the fans can enjoy the game without having the choreographed celebrations." — Former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, CBS News

Fan cheering Kevin Durant's injury was inexcusable.

"What the Raptors fans did to Kevin Durant, one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball, was one of the most pathetic displays of fandom I have ever witnessed." — Natalie Egenolf, Philly Voice

Critics of Raptors fans are naive about the way sports works.

"Their first reaction was, they were just celebrating a title basically. … I don't know that it's trashy. It's just their honest reaction that they react to them first as a player, second as a human being. But that's why the fans are all in the stands, not to watch human beings, to watch a game with players." — Max Kellerman, First Take

The minority of fans who cheered do not represent the team's larger following.

"There are silly people who act before they think and they are everywhere. … It is frustrating to have to be in their midst and it’s soiled bits of the NBA Finals and there is one fervent hope as the series reaches its conclusion sometime in the next few days: Do not let them spoil your fun." — Doug Smith, Toronto Star

Fans have lost a sense of the humanity of athletes.

"The fans waving at Durant while he sat on the court, and the ones yelling 'F— KD' outside in Jurassic Park, didn’t see a player who rushed himself back to help his team or a person whose entire future playing career, and earning potential, is now in jeopardy. They only saw a mindless video game avatar simply malfunctioning." — Martenzie Johnson, The Undefeated

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