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(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Questionable Sportsmanship On Display At NBA Finals, Women’s World Cup

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Sportsmanship is one of the first lessons learned at even youth-level athletics. Lately, that concept has been on the forefront of attention at the highest levels of the sporting world.

There have been two examples of questionable sportsmanship this week. The first took place on Monday night during Game 5 of the NBA Finals when Golden State star Kevin Durant went down on the floor with a major leg injury. While Durant was laying on the hardwood, clutching his leg in pain, the Toronto fans were cheering, essentially celebrating Durant’s injury.

To say it was a classless moment would be an understatement. After the game, which the Warriors won to stay alive in the series, Durant’s teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, was quite upset at the behavior of the Raptors’ fans.

“So trash. We’re only idolized as superstar athletes, not human beings,” said Cousins in his postgame interview.

The second instance of perhaps less-than-ideal sportsmanship happened on Tuesday afternoon when the U.S. women’s national team absolutely destroyed Thailand in the team’s first match in the World Cup. The Americans set a new record for goals scored in a game with 13-0 thumping of the Thai squad.

In the case of the U.S. victory, whether or not it was poor sportsmanship is a bit more nuanced. The score itself is quite jarring for a soccer match, but the U.S. may have been justified in keeping its foot on the gas for the full 90 minutes. Although it may be a longshot, it’s going to be important in case of a disaster that the U.S. has the best goal differential possible as that will be the tiebreaker in the event of a split record to decide which team will advance from group play.

Another argument for it not being poor sportsmanship comes with recognizing the context of the game. It’s the World Cup, the biggest stage in women’s soccer. The players have been training for years for this summer’s tournament and it would difficult to tell them to not enjoy the moment and play as hard as possible.

On the other hand, the most offensive part of the game came after each goal was scored. Following each of the Americans’ 13 strikes, the scorer would consistently run to the bench and excessively celebrate with the entire team, sometimes sliding on the grass or breaking into a dance. Some of the dances even looked choreographed.

It’s not hard to imagine how upset American soccer fans would have been had the tables been turned and the U.S. team was on the other side of the worst loss in World Cup history. In that hypothetical parallel universe in which Thailand scored 13 goals on the U.S. and danced after every goal, it’s not too crazy to think that perhaps even Donald Trump would have tweeted something nasty in the direction of the Thai people.

Even though sportsmanship should be a basic pillar of sports, and professional athletes and fans of professional athletes should be experts on the subject, both a group of players and a group fans fell short of perfect execution this week.

There was definitely room for improvement.