The question of sportsmanship in two controversial celebrations | KNKX

The question of sportsmanship in two controversial celebrations

Jun 14, 2019

Two celebrations in the sports world caused controversies this week. One involved Toronto Raptors fans in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The other involved the U.S. women's national soccer team at the World Cup.

KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked about the issue of sportsmanship with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.


On Monday, some Toronto Raptors fans cheered after Warriors star Kevin Durant suffered what turned out to be a season-ending injury. There was a lot of fallout from that.

That link from the San Francisco Chronicle includes a photo of Toronto's Serge Ibaka motioning for people to stop cheering as Durant was escorted off the court. The paper also reports one Raptors fan has started a GoFundMe page to benefit Durant's charity.

Thiel said he understands why the cheering happened but he doesn't excuse it.

"I hope people don't want to condemn all of Canada or Toronto or even the fans (in the arena) because most did not cheer. Those that did, I think, were responding to impulse.

"I think they need to check their impulses but I don't think it's the worst thing in the world that they experienced it because this was going to be, potentially, the game that won Canada its first NBA title.

"The electricity in the arena, the energy, was just immense. And I can understand an impulse - for the first two, three, four, five seconds - about seeing a great player not being able to be a great player.

"But there is a decorum when a player goes down. There's no cheering. There's no applause. And the fact that the Toronto Raptors players had to signal with their arms for the fans to tone down, left a mark."


There was also criticism this week for the U.S. women's national soccer team for their celebrations during and following their 13-0 rout of Thailand in the first round of the World Cup.

"There were some celebrations on the sidelines and a lot of emotional hugging and celebrating when the game got out of hand," Thiel said. "And it looked kind of bad. It looked a little bit arrogant."

Responding to criticism that the criticism itself was sexist, Thiel said he thinks men deserve to be chastised just as much of they do the same thing. He also doesn't think there was a way for the team to pull back.

"There was no way to throttle back, and I don't think they should have throttled back because you've got to keep your competitive edge. So, I understand how it got to be 13-0.

"I just think a lot of times, in a place of international spectacle, you got to be conscious of where you are and who you are. These women are Americans and there's a lot of skepticism about Americans, in general, in the world today.

"Even in my experience in covering nine Olympics, we are scrutinized - whether we're fans or media or players - to a level that we need to be aware of.

"I think it would have been probably worthwhile for the American coach to say, 'If we get ahead, I still want to keep on the throttle but let's keep in mind it's pretty easy to win admirers as well as win games.'"

Thiel said, in both of these instances, it comes down to an issue of sportsmanship.

"I think all of us want to see an emphasis on good behavior. It's a hard thing to do but at the elite level, hard things are expected from everybody involved."

Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Sports With Art Thiel with iTunes or Google Play now. You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and