Anybody Follow Football? An Ethics Post

Anybody follow football?

If you do, you’ve probably heard of the Saints’ ‘bounty’ scandal.  Hell, if you don’t follow football I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

This is a great example of ethics at work.  And of what is moral vs. ethical vs. legal. 

Most people would say it’s immoral to hit someone, though they’d most likely use the word “wrong” instead.  After all, that’s one of the first things children learn in our society and social groups: no hitting.  

But, like in boxing or hockey, hitting is a part of football.  It’s a requirement of the work.  Here we see the ethical overriding the moral. 

So, in some sports it is ethical to hit people.  But it is unethical to pay players for deliberately injuring other players.  The NFL is harping on safety right now, and this scandal could not have come at a more (in)opportune time.  This is not something that the business believes is right to promote, and the commissioner has taken steps to professionally reprimand those who were involved (whether involved through implementation or compliance.

The NFL is essentially a union, and as such they have contracts with the players and the teams that promote fairness (I hear the process and paper trails are all pretty complicated when it comes to these kinds of professional agreements).  These contracts would largely cover the ethical requirements of the industry.  For instance, it is well known that players are forbidden from taking/being paid extra money for touchdowns, or field goals, or complete passes, etc.

Granted, those are things required by the job (whereas injuring opponents is not), but so are tackles and hits.  If a player is accepting money for hits–regardless of their outcome–and it is stated in the team or player’s contract that this is unacceptable behavior by a member of the league, there could be legal as well as ethical ramifications.  

Depending on the content and legality of the contract, of course.

Actually, it is most likely these contracts that give the commissioner the power to censure the offending parties as he sees fit (even if they no longer belong to the particular team in which the breaches were committed).  If one of you lovely readers is well versed in this sort of thing, feel free to correct me or fill in the blanks.

It’s unfortunate that the best illustrations I can find are of ethical breaches rather than ethical compliance.   But what you shouldn’t do is often clearer than what you should do.   

So, what to take away from this?  Other than hitting people is wrong and getting paid for it is even more wrong?

Ethics are important.  Ethical agreements are important.  Ethical behavior is important.  To you, and all those you professionally interact with.  Ignoring ethics leads to all sorts of unpleasant problems for everyone involved (In this instance, not only do players, coaches, and staff suffer consequences, but so do fans).

Hope that added a bit to your understanding of last week’s post.  As always, questions, comments, and arguments are welcome!


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3 thoughts on “Anybody Follow Football? An Ethics Post

  1. I don’t follow football much, but I do know that Peyton Manning is now part of Denver. Go Broncos!

  2. Ok, I’m addressing this in a comment because I don’t feel it needs its own post, but I have to say something.

    I live in Arkansas, and recently we’ve had our own football coach debacle.

    I am disgusted by people’s reactions: rallying support for coach Petrino while ignoring the real issue. The problem is not whether or not he was having an affair–the problem is that he may have misappropriated school funds and violated his contract. Those are ethical and legal issues.

    Stop supporting ethics violators! Sheesh, and people wonder why there are so many people/business out there acting unethically–it’s because other people keep throwing their support behind them! You can’t say you want people to act ethically, then be their shoulder to cry on when they’re caught being dishonest.

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