Singaporean newspaper shamed for ‘shaming’ SEA Games athletes

A single-page spread of Team Singapore’s report card. Photo: Sharmaine Chan/Facebook
A single-page spread of Team Singapore’s report card. Photo: Sharmaine Chan/Facebook

A local newspaper has drawn flak for grading the performances of Singaporean athletes in the recently concluded SEA Games, with several calling it out as diminishing their achievements.

The Straits Times yesterday published the Team Singapore Report Card, which assigned performance grades to 52 different sports; from bowling, which got an A; and football, which got an F. A photo of the one-page spread was hate-posted to Facebook by user Sharmaine Chan.

“So Straits Times has come to this – a grading system from A to F for SG athletes who competed this SEA Games 2019. I mean … is this how we repay our athletes who dedicate their blood sweat and tears to the sport they love? Based on one grading system across all sports?” she wrote in the post, which has been shared nearly 3,000 times.

Chan also noted that some athletes may have trained with “little to no support from organizations” or had to “take time off work and dig into their savings.”

“So to whoever thought of this idea – If this is how you want to deter our future potential rising athletes from pursuing what they love because all they will get is a report card, then you’re doing one bloody good job guys,” she added. 

Hundreds of others who commented and shared the post echoed Chan’s sentiments, calling the piece “disgusting” and an act of public shaming. 

“That’s the problem with sports in [Singapore]. You train, you sweat, you sacrifice your time, money and time with family. If you succeed, they worship you, but if you don’t live up to their expectations, you are condemned and forgotten, and now shamed by grading,” Facebook user Basil Lim wrote.

“[Straits Times] please stop this grading in our society la [sic]! We already have grading in schools, causing high pressure on kids/children/teenagers/parents! We want to play and enjoy sports with pleasure, not pressure!” ChawKwang Wong wrote.

Singapore, which calls itself a meritocratic society, has in recent years made changes to its education system in an attempt to move the focus away from grades. The reforms include scrapping mid-year examinations for some primary and secondary school levels. 

Just a sports thing

Amid the criticism, several defended The Straits Times’ piece, saying that sports journalists and analysts grade athletes all the time. 

“Actually, I don’t see anything wrong. Sports columns always grade NBA players or soccer players and they are journalists and probably sports analysts and that is their job,” Facebook user Smith Leong wrote.

Leong continued, saying that it wasn’t an attempt to put anyone down or knock their contributions.

“It doesn’t discredit them for their hard work, isn’t it? It is purely based on their performance and it is a norm for the sports industry,” he wrote.

Another user, Perry Lim, echoed those sentiments. 

“To be honest, I find this perfectly fine. We grade athletes in other sports week in and week out too. We hear ‘IS LEBRON JAMES REIGN AT THE TOP OVER?’ and ‘IS CRISTIANO RONALDO IN DECLINE?!’ after one bad game all the time. It is the media, you are only as good as your last game.”

This year’s SEA Games ended Wednesday, with the top Singaporean performances credited to speed skater Cheyenne Goh and the Quah swimming siblings bringing home gold medals. 

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