The UVA murder and a culture of entitlement in sports

May 07, 2010

As you read through articles, blogs, and opinions regarding the horrific death of Yeardley Love this past week, you will find countless opinions on who to blame. Some note this tragedy as a hideous act by one individual, some blame the culture of domestic violence so prevalent in our society, and a recent argument on The Sun's op-ed page, "A Shadow on Men's Lacrosse" (May 7) places blame on the sport of lacrosse as a whole.

As a Baltimore native I have experienced firsthand the evolving stereotypes that come with being a men's lacrosse player in our area. I attended a prestigious private school where I played the sport and even went on to college where I continued to play at a major D-1 level. This terrible tragedy has hit home to many of us in the area, in part due to the association it has with the sport of lacrosse. Though sickened by the horrific act, we are angry that someone so similar to us could be accused of doing something so terrible. Now, more than ever, young men who play lacrosse are labeled as privileged, entitled and, worst of all, abusers. As the sport has evolved, so has the image of those who play it.

The problem here, however, is not with the sport of lacrosse specifically but instead with high profile sports in general. Tiger Woods, Ben Roethlisberger, Lawrence Taylor and countless other professionals have paved the way for athletes who believe they can do no wrong. The common themes of entitlement and abuse, however, are no longer reserved for the professionals, as they have trickled down to athletes at all levels, and all sports.

From an early age we are encouraged to excel through competition. Even at the high school level we are distinguished by the sport we play and elevated to a higher level both in school and through the media. Often times, athletes are recruited and accepted into colleges strictly based on physical abilities. Once in college, athletes instantly surround themselves with a fraternity of other athletes, and they told they are better than the rest. A sense of superiority and entitlement is introduced, as athletes at major schools are given advantages not provided to the general student body.

It is easy to see how these attitudes and general stereotypes develop, and though very rarely does this scenario end as horribly as it did this past week, the systems are sadly in place for this to occur. As parents, teachers or anyone in a position to influence our youth, it is our job to teach a sense of humility, respect and sportsmanship. Athletics is a wonderful avenue to better one's self and a great way to teach our youth some of the principles we should all be brought up on.

My fear is that parents will be less likely to enroll their children in sports like lacrosse due to the negative stereotypes associated with its participants. Lacrosse is a fantastic sport, and if taught the right way it can be a great vehicle to educate our children. We should not blame the sport for such a horrendous act but instead use it as a means to improve those who participate. Let us make sports a positive medium for development, and not a negative one.

Kyle Lagratta, Reisterstown

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