By NeW Intern, Meg McEwen
The controversial film I, Tonya just hit theaters, sparking debate about good sportsmanship in and out of the arena. The 2017 drama gives a fictionalized account of U.S. figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to her ex-husband’s violent attack of her rival, Nancy Kerrigan in 1994.
Unlike the average desk jockey, a professional athlete goes to work under the supervision of the national eye. His every subtle action and reaction will be broadcasted, psychoanalyzed, and even GIFed. In those moments, an athlete’s character will surge to the forefront of the American spotlight – for better or for worse.
Throughout history, a few great gentlemen have set aside their competitive edge in the heat of the game for something that they thought was more important than the game itself. NeW’s Gentlemen Showcase (now LIVE!) applauds that ethos of sportsmanship. Here are five examples of exemplary sportsmanship displayed by gentlemen:
1. Tim Tebow
No list of sportsmanship would be complete without the gentleman who defined the term itself. Tebow earned the respect of the nation for his humanitarian actions, Christ-like attitude, and servant leadership while playing college football for the University of Florida. The Bible verses on his face, written in eye black, inspired millions of google searches. He initiated fundraisers at the University of Florida to raise money for an orphanage in the Philippines, a pediatric center in Gainesville, and a Disney trip for disadvantaged children. Upon graduating, he launched the Tim Tebow Foundation, a philanthropic organization that hosts events like “Night to Shine,” giving children with disability a chance to attend prom.
2. Pau Gasol
Los Angeles Lakers player, Pau Gasol from Spain, is a legend for Europeans who aspire to join the NBA. When a typhoon ripped through the Philippines, he pledged to donate $1000 to relief efforts for every bucket scored in a game. He was chosen by NBA fan votes to win the charity competition hosted by the NBA (very similar to NeW’s Gentlemen Showcase!), and he donated his earnings to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund to build safe schools for children in Africa. Gasol started the Gasol Foundation with the goal of reducing childhood obesity rates through sports and healthy lifestyle programs.
3. John Landy
Going way back, runner John Landy stopped in his tracks during the one mile final at the 1956 Australian National Championship for track and field. A runner clipped the ankle of Landy’s competitor, Ron Clarke, causing him to fall during the race. John Landy doubled back to check on Clarke while the other runners kept going. He lifted Clarke up and proceeded to re-join the race. Landy overcame the gap between himself and the others before winning the race.
4. Xavi Hernandez
Xavi Hernandez, midfielder for Barcelona soccer, is known for his tiki-taka style of playing (short passes to maintain possession of the ball) and his humility. He actively supports noble causes on the field like dedicating goals to children with leukemia and wearing shirts in support of the children. One time, Xavi stood at the door of an opposing team’s dressing room to shake hands with every single player, coach, medical staff, and kit manager after their defeat at the Nou Camp. His professional and courteous actions led him to win the Fair Play Award ten times in a row, voted by fans.
5. Kris Hogan
Though not a professional athlete, Grapevine Faith Coach Kris Hogan made headlines in November 2008. His high-school football team was up against the largest juvenile correction facility in Texas, Gainesville State School. Students who play football at the facility have served at least half of their sentence and demonstrated good grades and behavior. When they play, the stands are empty. Hogan requested in an email that half of his fans cheer for their opponents to communicate to the opposition that “you are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth.”
Many of these gentlemanly players would not be where they are without the great sports organizations that encourage such behavior in their players. Seasoned scouter Greg Gabriel says in an article written for Pro Football Weekly, “When a scout looks at personal character, he is looking at how the player lives his life. Is he a good person? How does he get along and relate with people both inside and outside of football? Is he involved with community service? How important is school to him? What kind of teammate is he? What kind of personality does he have?”
In 2016, the NFL teamed up with United Way Worldwide announcing a national launch of Character Playbook, an education program that would “Good character is a critical building block of strong communities,” said United Way Worldwide president and CEO Gallagher, “By helping young people develop these skills and recognize healthy, productive relationships, Character Playbook is another example of how NFL and United Way are combining the love of team with a deep commitment to community to make a difference.”
If you have been inspired by these great examples of gentlemen in the game, join NeW’s Gentlemen Showcase to keep the momentum of greatness going. Nominations are accepted at www.gentshowcase.com through February 14. Voting opens on February 15. #GentShowcase