The incident occurred Saturday, spilled onto social media and online outlets almost immediately and stands as a shining example of what not to do despite another team’s alleged bad sportsmanship.
According to online reports, the Atlee Little League softball team from Virginia defeated Kirkland, a team from Washington state, in the Junior Little League World Series semifinal game. Kirkland was the host team.
Following the game, some of the Atlee girls, ages 12 to 14, took to Snapchat to post a photo signaling their feelings toward their host. In the photo, the girls extended their middle fingers with the words, “watch out host,” as a caption.
Little League officials became aware of the photo and promptly disqualified the team for violating the league’s policies concerning “unsportsmanlike conduct, inappropriate use of social media and the high standard that Little League International holds for all its participants.” As a result, Kirkland moved into Atlee’s spot and played the championship game, yet lost 7-1 to USA Central.
The disqualification had some crying foul and others backing the league’s decision to disqualify. Atlee’s coach, Chris Mardigian, noted that some Kirkland team members weren’t so nice to Atlee’s players, and that a player and a coach from Kirkland were ejected during the game for incidents. Once Atlee manager Scott Currie learned of the online photo, it was deleted and the Atlee players were made to apologize to Kirkland.
Currie called the disqualification a “travesty,” yet admitted the girls were wrong for what they did. However, he noted, “I don’t think the punishment fit the crime,” according to a report on sbnation.com.
There’s a lot to be learned from this story, especially with fall sports on the horizon. Being a member of an athletic team, or any team, for that matter, is a privilege. There are rules to follow both on and off the playing field. If the rules are broken, the violators should face the consequences.
Team members are also held to higher standards. Many times they are expected to lead by example, and with that comes fair play and sportsmanship. If a team exhibits poor sportsmanship — whether on or off the field — the offended team should take the high road and rise above it instead of sinking to the other team’s level of poor sportsmanship.
While it was just a photo, someone saw it, saved it and shared it. It’s the nature of the beast when it comes to online media. It violated the Little League rules, and the league wasn’t wavering in its decision to disqualify.
A hard lesson learned early in life for these girls, but it should stand as an example that rules are made to be followed and that sportsmanship — no matter how badly the other team acts toward you, or whether you win or lose — reigns in the end.