Sore Loser or Justified? Sports Edition

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2016

Sore Loser or Justified? Sports Edition

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    Bruno Zanardo/Getty Images

    Hope Solo was absolutely a sore loser when she called the Swedish team that beat the U.S. "a bunch of cowards."

    Other post-loss actions haven't been so cut-and-dry, though. For instance, did Klay Thompson fail to shake any Cleveland Cavaliers' hands after the NBA Finals because he was salty or because (as he said) he wanted them to have their moment?

    The following are 12 recent instances in which a defeated athlete, coach or fan made a comment or gesture that was less than gracious. Perhaps they even disparaged their opponent or, at minimum, refused to offer congratulations.

    Look, no one likes to lose. As Cam Newton once said, per Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, "You show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser."

    That said, there are ways to lose with dignity. Did these folks achieve that? And if not, just how off were they?

Michael Conlan's Rant

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    Irish boxer Michael Conlan lost by unanimous decision to Russia's Vladimir Nikitin in the Olympic 56-kilogram quarterfinal, and he was not happy.

    Conlan believed he clearly won and blamed the referees for his defeat. He directed an obscene gesture their way and later unleashed a profane rant against them on Irish television.

    To be fair, Conlan wasn't the only one who felt he had gotten a raw deal. According to David Kelly of the Belfast Telegraph, heavyweight champion Tyson Fury said, "I was doing an interview about three hours before the fight, and in it I was saying how corrupt amateur boxing is, and then we saw Michael Conlan suffering a disgraceful decision."

    In fact, the International Boxing Association actually sent home an undisclosed number of referees and judges due to questionable decisions, including Conlan's. 

    Sore Loser? Yes, but only because of the NSFW rant. (His anger seemed at least somewhat justified.)

Klay Thompson Skips the Handshakes

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Cavaliers stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to win the 2016 NBA Finals over the Golden State Warriors.

    After the deciding Game 7, Warriors guard Klay Thompson left the court without shaking the hands of his opponents.

    Later, Thompson explained, "I just want to say congrats to Cleveland. I didn't shake any of their hands, but I didn't mean to upstage them like that. I saw them celebrating and didn't want to interrupt. I've gotta give them respect," per Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle.

    If that's true, Thompson's move seems at least sort of justified. It's also easy to see how he would have wanted to get straight to the locker room, but then again, he should have stuck around for a handshake. It's the classy thing to do.

    Sore Loser? Yes, but a mild one

Ayesha Curry's Tweet

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    Rich Fury/Associated Press

    Klay Thompson wasn't the only person associated with the Golden State Warriors who took some heat during the NBA Finals.

    Ayesha Curry, wife of NBA MVP Stephen Curry, apparently grew frustrated with the officiating during the Warriors' Game 6 loss and tweeted, "I've lost all respect sorry this is absolutely rigged for money… or ratings in not sure which. I won't be silent. Just saw it live sry" (h/t Eric Freeman of Yahoo Sports).  

    The backlash was immediate, and Curry quickly deleted the tweet. Though it probably wasn't a great idea to fire that off in the first place, it seemed to be more of an in-the-moment frustration thing than a sore loser thing.

    Sore loser? Only temporarily

Lynsey Sharp Calls out Caster Semenya

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    British runner Lynsey Sharp took sixth in the women's 800-meter final in Rio. South African Caster Semenya—whose heightened testosterone levels due to hyperandrogenism have made her a somewhat controversial figure—took gold.

    After the race, Sharp addressed what she believes to be an unfair advantage. Of Semenya, she said, per Tom Rostance of BBC Sport, "I have tried to avoid the issue all year. You can see how emotional it all was. We know how each other feels. It is out of our control and how much we rely on people at the top sorting it out. The public can see how difficult it is with the change of rule but all we can do is give it our best."

    The internet let Sharp have it. One user, @IshreneDavids, pointed out, "#LinseySharp finished 6th. Would she have finished faster if #CasterSemenya wasn't running? My guess is she would have finished 5th."

    Sharp is allowed to have her own opinions and frustrations, but it's not as if she took second by a hair here. 

    Sore Loser? Definitely

Nadal on Nishikori's Bathroom Break

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    Japan's Kei Nishikori defeated Spaniard Rafael Nadal—6-2, 6-7 (1), 6-3—to secure bronze in the Rio Olympic Games.

    The match against Nishikori was Nadal's 11th of the Games (he also competed in doubles), so fatigue was likely a factor.

    Nishikori looked solid throughout the match, but he reportedly took an extended break during a Nadal surge.

    According to the Japan Times, "Nadal got the crowd behind him with the comeback, and Nishikori drew the jeers after a lengthy bathroom break that seemed to irritate Nadal ahead of the final set."

    According to Gatto Luigi of Tennis World magazine, Nadal was gracious in defeat but did mention the break, saying, "It's not the moment to speak about it, but when you come back from 2-5 down with double break, you win the set and your opponent stays at the bathroom for 12 minutes, it's logical you are not OK with it."

    Sore Loser? Nah

Messi Retires from Argentina National Team

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    In 2015, Chile defeated Argentina on penalties in the Copa America final. In 2016, literally the same thing happened.

    Argentine forward Lionel Messi—whose only major international win was the 2008 Olympic Games—announced his retirement from the national team shortly after the conclusion of the game.

    Messi said, per BBC Sport, "For me, the national team is over. I've done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion." He added, "It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over."

    Not two months later, Messi (not all that surprisingly) changed his mind.  

    To quit the national team out of frustration would seem a bit sore-loser-ish, but Messi's move appeared to be born out of frustration with Argentina, rather than disdain for Chile.  

    Sore Loser? Kind of but not really

Islam El Shehaby Refuses Handshake

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    Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

    The Olympic Games are all about sportsmanship—so much so, an athlete was sent home from Rio after he failed to display any.

    Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby refused to shake the hand of Israel's Or Sasson after he was defeated in their bout. According to Karolos Grohmann of Reuters, El Shehaby was sent home by his own team and also received discipline from the IOC.

    El Shehaby didn't merely walk off without approaching Sasson—he actually refused the extended hand of his opponent as each stood with the referee.

    Part of an IOC statement read, per Reuters, "The Disciplinary Commission (DC) considered that his behavior at the end of the competition was contrary to the rules of fair play and against the spirit of friendship embodied in the Olympic Values."

    Sore Loser? Big time

Coach K Lectures Dillon Brooks

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Oregon beat Duke in the Sweet 16 of the 2016 NCAA men's basketball tournament, 82-68. 

    Up big late in the game, Oregon forward Dillon Brooks put up a three as the shot clock wound down—a move that drew criticism from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

    Krzyzewski approached Brooks after the game, and there was initially some confusion over the words exchanged. Later, folks found out Coach K said to Brooks, "You're too good of a player to do that," per  

    Coach K eventually apologized and said he "reacted incorrectly."

    Sore Loser? A little sure, but the incident also just seems in line with Coach K's semi-crotchety public persona.

Ronaldo's Comments on Iceland

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    Eventual Euro 2016 champion Portugal and beloved underdog Iceland played to a 1-1 draw during the tournament's group stage. 

    The draw was a huge achievement for Iceland—an island nation of around 330,000 people. Still, Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo did not give the opponent any credit. If anything, he was downright rude.

    Ronaldo said, per Ed Malyon of the Daily Mirror (via ESPN FC), "I thought they'd won the Euros the way they celebrated at the end, it was unbelievable. When they don't try to play and just defend, defend, defend, this in my opinion shows a small mentality and are not going to do anything in the competition."

    Portugal won the tournament, but Iceland made it all the way to the quarterfinals. Not bad for a team that was "not going to do anything."

    Sore Loser? Sure seemed like it, even though Portugal didn't even lose

Sam Bradford Demands a Trade

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    DON WRIGHT/Associated Press

    Former No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford has struggled with injuries throughout his NFL career. Still, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback did manage to throw for 3,725 yards and 19 touchdowns in 14 games in 2015, and he got a new two-year, $36 million deal in March.  

    Later, ahead of the NFL draft, the Eagles traded a whole mess of picks to move up to No. 2, where they eventually selected QB Carson Wentz.

    Bradford was apparently not happy with the crowding at his position, and so he demanded a trade (unsuccessfully).

    If anything is certain in the NFL, it's that when you have a chance to draft a franchise QB, you take it. Bradford is no Tom Brady, so his team's moves have all been understandable.  

    Sore Loser? Yea, probably with a few hurt feelings mixed in

Robert Bauer's 7 Fingers

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    Fact 1: Germany housed Brazil, 7-1, in the 2014 World Cup semifinal.

    Fact 2: Brazil defeated Germany, 5-4, on penalties in the 2016 Olympic final, securing the gold medal for the host nation.

    The two above facts have very little to do with each other. And yet, Germany's Robert Bauer took a page out of the jilted-fan playbook after his team's Olympic loss, holding up seven fingers in reference to the World Cup win.

    This is one of those things that is just cocky and pointless. A 7-1 win in 2014 doesn't make up for the 5-4 loss in 2016, does it?

    Sore Loser? Yep

Hope Solo's 'Cowards' Comment

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    Eugenio Savio/Associated Press

    The U.S. women's soccer team went for its fourth straight gold medal in Rio, but it came up short.

    Sweden defeated the U.S., 4-3, on penalty kicks, in the quarterfinals. It was an upset, and some might have called Sweden's strategy conservative, but it was a fair-and-square victory nonetheless.  

    And yet, American goalkeeper and famous lightning rod Hope Solo was less than gracious after the game. Per Grant Wahl of Fox Sports, Solo said, "I also think we played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today."

    Solo is allowed to disagree with opponents' strategy, but how about a little grace under fire? Or even a congratulations for the victors?

    She made a quintessential sore-loser statement. 

    Sore Loser? Oh yeah