By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Over the last two days, I've heard a lot of chatter about LeBron James's refusal to shake hands with his winning opponents, the Orlando Magic, after they bumped his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, out of the NBA playoffs. He also skipped the media event afterward, when presumably he could have apologized for his unsportsmanlike conduct. Instead, he headed to the parking lot with his headphones on amid a gaggle of bodyguards. Here's what he later told reporters, according to the Washington Post:
It's hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them. I'm a winner. It's not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you're not going to congratulate them. That doesn't make sense to me. I'm a competitor. That's what I do. It doesn't make sense for me to go over and shake somebody's hand.
But he wasn't really a winner, as he said, because he and his team lost the game. And despite his protests to the contrary, he was actually being a poor sport. Ann Killion, the sports columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, today calls him "the definition of a poor sport." Mike Lupica of the N.Y. Daily News says NBA Commissioner David Stern should make an example of him.
I've got a better idea: Start requiring that all NBA players shake hands with their opponents at the end of every game, starting with the championship series that starts Thursday.
I'm no sports expert, but my understanding is that NBA teams do not line up to shake hands at the end of a game. Players from opposing teams just casually go around the court and shake hands if they feel like it. I think the only professional league whose players officially line up to shake hands with their opponents is the National Hockey League.
Recently we went to a Washington Nationals baseball game, and at the end of the game, we watched the Nationals walk out in a straight line to shake hands not with the other team—but with themselves! What's the point of that?
Every kid in every sports league—soccer, Little League, field hockey, lacrosse, football, you name it—from kindergarten to college has to shake hands with their opponents. Many times the coach will bench them if they refuse. So why don't the adults have to do the same thing? I guess good sportsmanship is just for kids these days. It's certainly not for the adults who make it to the top of their sport.
If it was up to me, all professional sports leagues would require handshakes at the end of every game, and there would be a stiff fine waiting for those poor sports who refuse.
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