This is an excerpt from Applied Sport Management Skills 4th Edition With HKPropel Access by Robert N. Lussier & David C. Kimball.
Ethics is such an important topic that we are devoting three major sections to this topic. In this section, we answer “what are ethics?”, present views of ethics, and discuss why it pays to be ethical.
What Are Ethics?
Ethics refers to the standards of right and wrong that influence behavior. Being ethical means being honest and not taking advantage of others—no lying, cheating, or stealing. On average, people tell one or two lies a day.43 Unfortunately, some people lie about things for no good reason and don’t care if they hurt others.44 Scandals, disruptive publicity of misconduct, are common today.45 The unethical character of some corporations globally has led to a decline in public confidence of managers, and more than half (54%) of Americans do not trust business in general.46 Ethics can be taught and learned.47 We constantly have to make decisions that can be either ethical or unethical. So, let’s get going on improving our ability to handle ethical issues.
An organization’s ethics are the collective behaviors of its individuals. If each athlete and each employee acts ethically, the actions of the organization will be ethical, too. The starting place for ethics, therefore, is you. Are you an ethical person? It’s an important question, and one to which you should devote some thought. To answer this question, complete Self-Assessment 2.1.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of unethical behavior in sports. Here are a few examples of recent troubling scandals.
- FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, has fired many top-level officials since Swiss investigators detained seven FIFA officials at their Zurich hotel. Racketeering, conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery were some of the charges brought against them.48
- Female bicyclist Femke Van den Driessche, a former European youth cyclocross champion from Belgium, became the first person to be banned for using a hidden electric motor.49
- The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) banned nine nations from the World Championships and beyond for repeatedly testing positive for doping. Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, and Turkey were banned for a year. The IWF has increased doping testing at their championships.50
- Rick Pitino was ousted as the NCAA basketball coach at the University of Louisville. Federal prosecutors accused two Louisville Cardinals coaches of directing money provided by the university’s apparel partner, Adidas, to two high school prospects. Pitino indicated he had no knowledge of providing money to high school students to attend Louisville.51
- These charges came only three months after Pitino and his program were sanctioned by the NCAA for a scandal in which prostitutes were provided to players and teenaged recruits. In an interview, Pitino blamed the graduate assistant responsible for athletes in their dorm life.52
- Chris Correa, a former scouting director for the MLB St. Louis Cardinals, was sentenced to almost four years in prison for hacking into the Houston Astros’ computer database to obtain valuable player information. This case is important because it broke federal laws. The judge valued the unique database and player information that was stolen at $1.7 million.53
View of Ethics?
Here are ways to view ethics.
Utilitarian, Rights, and Justice Views of Ethics
The utilitarian view states that ethical decisions should be based on creating greater good for society (provide the greater good for the greatest number based on consequences/outcomes of actions). The rights view states that ethical decisions should respect and protect individual privileges (right to privacy, free speech). The justice view states that ethical decisions should be made to treat everyone fairly and impartially: Do not discriminate.
Universalism Versus Relativism Views of Ethics
Universalism ethics states that there is absolute truth or right and wrong behavior, such as honesty. It is often easy to find the truth, but it is hard to face it, and even harder to follow it.54 Relativism ethics states that there is no absolute truth or right or wrong—which contradicts itself by using an absolute. Relativism is popular today because it promotes deciding for yourself what is true or right and wrong for you. Relativism tends to promote utility-driven rationality—the disregard of moral values and advocates for “value free ethics” that places the individual “beyond ethics.”55
Individualism, Hedonism, and Minimalism
Based on relativism, here are three other “isms.” Individualism is being selfish by just looking out for ourselves (being a ball hog) and taking advantage of others for our own personal gain (making a teammate look bad to get their position). We only act when there is something in it for us. Hedonism tells us not to do something if we don’t feel like doing it; we should just do what makes us feel good. Minimalism tells us to do the least we can to get by.
Do you know any relativists who are selfish, hedonistic, or minimalist people? Do you like them? How does the team feel about them? Are they really happy? Will they ever be? To have friends and good teammates, you have to be a good friend and look out for their best interest.
Yes, Ethical Behavior Does Pay
Do you consider people who act unethically with you to be your friends? Unethical behavior may result in some short-term gain, but truth does matter, so being ethical at the individual, organizational, and global levels pays off in the long run.
At the Personal Level
Although unethical behavior may result in short-term gains, in the long run people usually get caught and pay the price. Bernie Madoff got caught conducting a financial Ponzi scheme, went to prison, and died in prison for his unethical and illegal behavior.56
Do you want to be happy and have job satisfaction and success? Society commonly claims that “isms” bring us happiness—but they don’t. Research found that isms make it more difficult to achieve pleasure and make it easier to feel pain. Being honest has a positive effect on the front part of the brain used to make decisions, and honesty leads to happiness.57
Happiness comes primarily from relationships. Trust is the foundation of good relationships; people need to trust you. Lying is a common unethical behavior. If you know a person lies to others, there is a good chance that person lies to you, too. Years of a trusting relationship can be hurt or lost by one lie.
At the Organizational Level
Let’s also consider the cost of unethical behavior at the organizational level. Ethics scandals hurt the team’s and organization’s reputation. Unethical behavior can hurt multiple stakeholders and have a negative impact on society.58 Sadly, these impacts include lives, and how do we put price on a life? The Volkswagen emissions scandal may be responsible for nearly 1,200 premature deaths in Europe from excess emissions and will ultimately cost the firm more than 30 billion euros.59 Organizations seek integrity in job applicants,60 and some even test for ethics.
At the Global Level
Over the years, Olympic Committee members have faced allegations of corruption. Corruption is estimated to increase international project costs (such as the Olympics) by more than 10 percent. Furthermore, corruption can add up to 25 percent to the cost of procurement contracts in some countries. Global corruption costs more than $1 trillion being paid in bribes each year, the World Economic Forum estimated, and “that corruption reduces global GDP by more than 5%.”61 Will we ever see the day when we no longer have corruption, replacing it with universal ethical business and sport standards globally?