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Changing the culture of abusive trash talk

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If you’ve ever attended a sporting event, chances are you’ve heard — or even participated — some trash talk. Jabs from fans are said to be part of the game, another way to support the home team.

However, a string of sexist and racist remarks directed to the Garfield soccer  players by another school’s fans have gone beyond the classic jeers, and Garfield players are now working to stop this culture.

The opposing school, a private institution Garfield teams will often play as a non-league game, have a history of very raucous fans.

“All three years I’ve been on varsity [trash talk] has happened,” said senior Hannah Phelps, a goalkeeper for the Garfield girls soccer team.

However, players deemed this game to be more aggressive than years previous, with student fans targeting individual players. Phelps was one of the targeted payers, saying male students called her out for her rainbow-patterned jersey.

“The boys were referring to me ‘rainbow’,” Phelps said. “They came behind the goal after a goal was scored and said ‘come on, rainbow, that was your only job,’ and ‘I could have blocked that.’”

Other remarks included direct call outs of players by name, and the chant “number four, you’re a wh*re!” hurled at senior Anna Goldberg.

This incident is part of a larger trend of specific racist and sexist targeting towards high school athletes. Two years ago at a boys’ soccer game, a group of fans were heard making monkey noises towards an African-American Garfield player and throwing trash onto the field. In 2014, an Issaquah versus Garfield basketball game ended with students firing racist remarks towards Garfield players from an anonymous twitter account.

Racist and sexist remarks like these are the exact reason why Garfield is trying to change the culture of trash talk in high schools.

“These are student athletes, people who are still growing […] and still developing their emotional responses,” Lugo said. “When they are individually targeted in a negative way, it has an effect on them both in the short term of that game and in the long term.”

While especially rude fans are subject to being thrown out of basketball games and other sporting events where ticket fees are charged, the attention to fans are often disregarded at free games, like soccer or baseball. However, Phelps believes referees can still take action to make sure abusive fans are dismissed.

“You do have to kick [trash talkers] out,” Phelps said. “You don’t give them chances, you don’t tell them to stop, you simple have to say ‘leave.’”

Additionally, Lugo has given talks to players’ parents, telling them that rude remarks are not welcome.

“We want [parents] to come to the games and show their support,” Lugo said. “But we don’t want them talking to the refs or [the other teams], or coaching from the sidelines.”

Lugo also mentions he frequently takes time to remind his players that trash talk is not welcome on the field either.

“Trash talk [on the field] is tough to eliminate,” Lugo said. “I encourage any types of proactive efforts we can take to prevent these incidents.”

Whether you’re a player or simply a fan, Garfield soccer is here to remind you that, while your passion is appreciated, cheers should never become negative or abusive.

“We should have really high standards for our fans and supporters,” Lugo said. “We want you to come to the games, but we want your messaging to be positive.”

If you witness abusive trash talk from fans of either team, you are best advised to talk to a referee or security officer during half time. Now go out and root for the home team!

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