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Labels and Judgments Have No Place In Sports

labels have no place in sports

On Saturday, volunteers were passing out bracelets that read “Spread The Word To End The Word.” The word, of course, being the dreaded r-word: retarded. And it—like most labels in sports—has to go. There’s nothing more discouraging than being told you can’t do something because you don’t stack up for one arbitrary reason or another. And the definition of heartbreak is being labeled as one thing before being given a chance to prove otherwise.

As Zach Harris zoomed around the track, coach McCaughan read me his splits. They were pretty impressive. He was averaging sub-7-minute miles, and McCaughan thinks the 13-year-old has an 18-minute 5k in him. Sure, that time won’t shatter any world records, but it’s way faster than my best 5k.

Not only is the word “retarded” derogatory, it’s just plain incorrect. Stemming from the Latin word retardāre, to retard technically means to slow. There’s nothing slow about 13-year-old Zach Harris. Calling any one of these athletes retarded wouldn’t just be hurtful; it would be a lie.