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Naidu: In the moment

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Olympic hockey player Jocelyne Larocque has undergone some unwarranted criticism following her Canadian team’s loss to the USA women’s hockey team in the gold medal match. During the medal ceremony, cameras captured the moment Larocque had her silver medal placed around her neck, only for the Canadian defender to remove it immediately in disgust. Larocque was clearly still processing the loss of the biggest hockey match of her career, a 3-2 shocker to one of her country’s fiercest rivals. The 29-year-old has dedicated her whole life to hockey, and she had just fallen short reaching the pinnacle of her career just moments before she was awarded what was to her a consolation medal. Social media had a field day following this, attacking Larocque for being a sore loser and having a lack of sportsmanship.

While what Larocque did was not on par with typical post-game etiquette, the amount of criticism the Olympian received for being discontent losing her gold medal match was unwarranted to say the least. Yes, for us mere mortals, it’s easy to say “she should just be happy and accept the Olympic silver medal.” Yet we have no way of processing what it is like for an Olympian, somebody who has dedicated their entire life to one sport, to fall short of the ultimate glory by one goal on an international stage. Not to mention, she received the medal immediately following the match, still hot from the loss. Larocque is only human — a competitive, driven Olympian who was not satisfied with second place. What about that deserves criticism?

In addition, the criticism Larocque received was especially unnecessary given the minimal reactions people have had to more egregious acts of poor sportsmanship. In 2012 London Summer Olympics, gymnast McKayla Maroney went viral for her “not impressed” smirk following a stunning second place finish in the women’s vault competition. Maroney wasn’t chastised, she was memed.

Moreover, people forget how immature and blatantly childish Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was during his post-Super Bowl press conference in 2015. Most notably and recently, five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady didn’t have the decency or humility to shake Eagles quarterback Nick Foles’ hand. This was an especially significant lack of sportsmanship due to the disrespect it showed towards an opponent. None of these athletes faced the backlash Larocque has, and they shouldn’t have. Because, while we like to be every athlete’s biggest critic, at the end of the day, it’s their life, and they should be able to do and act how they want to, short of harming another individual.

In addition, Larocque is one of the few athletes who has the class to apologize for her lack of sportsmanship: “In the moment, I was disappointed with the outcome of the game, and my emotions got the better of me.”

As fans, we remain quick to skewer athletes for inconsistencies in their behavior or doing something we don’t perceive as the right thing: whether it’s Kevin Durant exercising his right to join the Warriors, Le’Veon Bell holding out for a deserved contract extension, or any number of college basketball players leaving after one year to get their payday. And yet, we are not so swift to govern our own vacillations.

That needs to change, because there is no place for hypocrisy in sports — especially from fans.

 

Contact Zach Naidu at znaidu ‘at’ stanford.edu.