Sportsmanship is one of the most important parts of any athletic endeavor. Good sportsmanship encourages every athlete to give their all. It reminds us that everyone who takes the field is participating in a game they love and strive to excel at.  

The Indian Express

Here are some examples of athletes defending each other:

1. Ian Wright and Marcus Rashford

Ian Wright defended Marcus Rashford after the latter’s confrontation with angry Manchester United supporters. The abuse came after being targeted by a group after a match. He responded to the comments angrily, later issuing a statement of apology for doing so. 

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Wright said, “Marcus, stand your ground, bro […] Don’t be f*cking sorry for that, bro. Some of those fans love giving it but can’t take it. You just do your stuff, get back to where you need to be when you are playing.”

2. Sushil Kumar and Mithali Raj

Indian women’s cricket team’s former skipper Mithali Raj received flak from trolls after posting a selfie in a tank top. She received a series of indecent comments, who termed her dress as “not good” and unworthy of an “Indian woman.”

Then-wrestler Sushil Kumar slammed the trolls, saying, “It’s a matter of what a person thinks. The kind of people of who talk about our athletes and sportspersons in such a manner should not be encouraged. They unnecessarily cause stress to the players and instead, they should support them.”

Other athletes like Vinesh Phogat and Robin Uthappa defended the former skipper too.

3. Serena Williams and Gabby Douglas

Following Gabby Douglas’ gold-medal performance at the 2012 Olympics, trolls took it upon themselves to criticize her hair. In response, stars like Gabrielle Union came out to defend Douglas.

Tennis legend Serena Williams stuck up for her as well. Williams told Kelly Whiteside, “It’s gorgeous! People don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s ridiculous. It’s so ridiculous. Her hair is gorgeous.”

3. England cricketers and Moeen Ali

Reportedly, cricketer Moeen Ali asked CSK to remove the sponsor logo of an alcohol company from his team jersey. He is known to not endorse alcohol brands’ logos due to his religious beliefs. However, CSK later rejected the reports to The Indian Express.

In response, the Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen, said: “If Moeen Ali were not stuck with cricket, he would have gone to Syria to join ISIS.” She initially defended her tweet before deleting it. 

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Moeen’s England teammates responded to the bigotry. “Are you okay? I don’t think you’re okay,” posted Archer followed by, “Sarcastic? No one is laughing, not even yourself, the least you can do is delete the tweet”. “Can’t believe this. Disgusting tweet. Disgusting individual”, wrote Lancashire and England fast bowler Saqib Mahmood. “This is the problem with these app. People being able to say stuff like this. Disgusting. Things need to change, please report this account!” England batsman Ben Duckett tweeted.

4. Michael Phelps on Simone Biles

Legendary gymnast Simone Biles dropped out of the women’s gymnastics team all-around competition, citing her mental health. She received flak from trolls and critics, dubbing her as “selfish” and “sensitive”. However, athletes from around the world celebrated the gymnast’s brave move.

The 28-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps defended not only of Biles’ decision to drop out but also of Naomi Osaka. He opened up about his and other athletes’ mental health struggles to put athletes’ headspace in perspective. He said, “Before criticizing Biles for her withdrawal, imagine walking a mile in her Air Jordans. The Olympics are overwhelming. There’s a lot of emotions that go into it.” He discussed how the reactions broke his heart.

5. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli

After another bad performance, questions began to come up about Kohli’s spot during the post-match press conference. Indian skipper Rohit came to his defense after being asked about the ‘outside noise’ that has been calling for Kohli’s axing for a while.

“It is not difficult for us as we do not listen to the outside noise. I don’t know who the experts are. I don’t even understand why they are called experts. They are watching it from the outside, they don’t know what is going on inside. We are building a team, we have a certain thought process. A lot of deliberation goes behind it. There is a lot of thinking behind it. Boys are backed. Boys are given chances. People outside don’t know all these things. It is not important what is going on outside,” said Rohit at the post-match press conference.

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He then said that form can go up and down but it can never affect the quality of the player. He defended Kohli’s few average seasons by applauding his long-time consistency. “It takes people time to understand it completely, but those who are running the team know the importance of that quality,” he concluded.

6. Rani Rampal and Vandana Katariya

Rani Rampal-led India women’s hockey team’s Tokyo 2020 semi-final loss to Argentina, where they went down fighting 2-1. There were casteist abuses hurled toward India’s star striker Vandana Katariya. Three men danced outside her family home, blaming the loss to Argentina for having ‘too many Dalits players’ in the team.

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Former captain Rani Rampal defended Katiyar and reacted sharply. “I really felt bad when I heard this was happening to her family. Her father died recently and people don’t understand the emotions of athletes and the sacrifices they make. She did not go to her father’s funeral because she felt she did not want to miss training ahead of the Olympics. I don’t know why people do this,” Rani told India Today.

“Players give their lives to further the name of the nation,” she said, celebrating the diversity of sports’ teams in India and criticizing fanaticism and bigotry.

7. Neeraj Chopra and Arshad Nadeem

The 23-year-old Olympic champion claimed in an interview with the Times of India that he was unable to find his javelin prior to his first throw at the Tokyo Olympics because Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem was using it. Indian supporters, however, quickly surmised that the Pakistani athlete had tampered with the javelin.

Neeraj Chopra rushed to Nadeem’s defense and clarified. He maintained in a video shared on Twitter that the player was merely practising, not tampering. He further expressed displeasure with how the people responded. He asked individuals to refrain from using him as a conduit for their propaganda and vested interests.

8. Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami

After playing poorly in a crucial match against Pakistan, the 31-year-old bowler became the target of online bullies. He was called a traitor by the assailants, who also used anti-Islamic language. Former skipper Virat Kohli came to his defense. He slammed the “bunch of spineless people”, reacting strongly to the abuse.

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“There is a good reason why we are playing on the field and not some bunch of spineless people on social media that have no courage to actually speak to any individual in person,” Kohli said during a press conference. “This is the lowest level of human form, attacking someone over religion is the most pathetic thing human being can do. “Never thought of discriminating on basis of religion. That is a very sacred thing. Our brotherhood and friendship can’t be shaken… and these things can’t infiltrate. I give credit to people who understand us,” he added.

It is always heartwarming to see athletes stand up for one another.