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Why I Still Have Hope For Sportsmanship In Sports

Jen PrestonSenior Analyst IFebruary 21, 2009

This is such an amazing story, and I am sure someone has picked up on it. But with so much negativity in the world of sports today, I feel it is a story that deserves to be told again and again. Thank you.

"It was shocking. I couldn't believe that my mom was gone," 18-year-old Johntell Frankling said. "She just gave me a look, like 'keep your head up, everything will be alright.'"

Franklin's 39-year-old mother lost her battle with cancer on February 7. She died with her son and his high school basketball team, the Milwaukee Madison Knights, by her side.

The team had a game that evening against non-conference rival, Illinois' DeKalb Barbs.

"It's kind of an Illinois-Wisconsin type of rivalry. Packers-Bears," Knights head coach Aaron Womack, Jr. said. 

Womack did not expect his co-captain to play that night.  He did not even put him on the active roster. But Franklin said his mother would have wanted him to play, and he arrived at the game in the second quarter to do just that.

However, since he was not on the active roster, the Knights received a technical foul, giving the Barbs a chance to score two points in an already tight game.

"I expressed to them that we should not be shooting the technical--that we did not want one," David Rohlman, the coach of the Barbs, said.

Rules are rules, and the referees forced the team to take the shots.

Junior guard Darius McNeal offered to take them. His coach took him aside.

"I turned to him, and I said, 'Now, you understand that we are going to purposefully miss these free throws," Rohlman told McNeal. "And he nodded in agreement. We were both on the same page."

McNeal took his first shot, shooting the ball just a couple of feet in front of him. He did the same for his second shot, letting the ball roll silently on the court.

"Any one of my teammates would have done the same thing, and I think anyone on the Madison team would have done the same thing for us," McNeal explained.

The Knights, who went on to win the game 62-47, gave the Barbs a standing ovation. After the game, the entire crowd gave one to both teams.

"At that point," Coach Roldman said. "I knew we did the right thing."

"I just got teary-eyed, like, 'Oh, man, that made me feel good' that the other team was supporting me," Franklin said.

"I did it for a guy who just lost his mom," McNeal said. "It was the right thing to do."

We live in a world where sports stars demonstrate poor ethics or sportsmanship. Whether it is Alex Rodriguez taking steroids, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wrecking someone in the Daytona 500, or Michael Vick dog fighting.

But, at least these high school basketball players demonstrated true sportsmanship.

Hopefully, more people will look at the high standards set by two rivals who went out for pizza and soda after their game.

Thanks to ABC News, The Seattle TimesKCTV5 out of Kansas City, and the Good Deed Blog for the quotes and information used in this piece.

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