Ethics challenges in professional sports: Part 2

We are seeing scandal rock the sporting world from FIFA bribery allegations, to the NFL New Orleans Saints bounty program, and even the doping scandals. We asked our Zintro experts to comment on the long-term consequences for sports if teams, athletes, and organizations continue to experience ethical dilemmas and scandals.

Danny Gould, an expert in sports event management, says that we have to remember that sports is entertainment. “As long as billions of dollars are on the line, there is going to be some blurring of the line when it comes to ethics,” he says. “What about the team doctors who approve players to go back on the field too soon? Or the millions of players with brain damage that retire and can’t remember how to get home each day? There is some level of ethics in general that is being violated by every major sports team in the world. So why should we be alarmed?”

Gould points out that society thinks that sports should be pure, after all, each of us goes through our days searching for heroes and cheering for regional teams that represent our cities or regions. “We love sports, but maybe sports teams do represent us. Maybe the things that are wrong with society in general has worked its way into sports entertainment. If we want to see sports become ethical we should evaluate our ethics off the field,” he suggests.

Dr. Barry Poris, a former professional baseball player, college coach, current college health and physical education professor, says that sports is an escape mechanism for millions of people helping us get through some of the worst times in our history. “Shortly after 9/11, many Americans tuned in to watch the baseball playoffs in New York, considered by many to be symbolic of our resiliency in the face of human tragedy,” he says. “Sports continues to give us a much needed outlet in the face of an economy that has left many unemployed for inordinate time periods for almost a decade.

Poris provides other examples of sports and societal resiliency include the city Detroit, which has been hard hit by the economic downturn, but had record crowds this past season as the Detroit Lions became respectable again. And in New Orleans, the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina just about took the Saints off the map; however, shortly afterwards the New Orleans Saints experienced a Super Bowl victory.

“When one looks at the long-term consequences for sports if teams, athletes, and organizations continue to experience ethical dilemmas and scandals, don’t be shocked if we continue to turn the other cheek, forgive, and look the other way,” says Poris. “Sure, doping, lying under oath, paying college athletes under the table, and a whole host of other inappropriate activities are eye openers and distasteful to many, but given enough time and the right responses from well-versed attorneys, we usually are ready to start cheering for our beloved players and teams once more.”

Pete Davis, a radio talk show host, says that it seems the frequency of scandals in sports is increasing, yet it may only seem that way because media are now more willing to expose those scandals. “In the past, icons such as a Babe Ruth or Diego Maradona may have been given the benefit of the doubt. Or journalists may have just winked and looked the other way. Not anymore as the pendulum has swung completely in the other direction,” says Davis. “Some star athletes who seem to be clean of any controversy, such as Tim Tebow, have been the subject of intense scrutiny in the media hope that they may uncover an unknown scandal.”

Davis says that FIFA has been the subject of problems before; the NFL has had issues such as gambling in the past as well. “Also, the winter and summer Olympics come every two years and so do the scandals. But as long as the public is willing to overlook or forgive their favorite players and teams then sports will continue to grow despite periodic ethical breakdowns,” says Davis. “Lance Armstrong is still hugely popular with fans and sponsors.”

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