Case studies for SPM 535 – Issues and Ethics in Sport
You will choose 2 different topics (some topics include more than one example.) All topic papers should be 4-6 pages in length. Select two of the following case studies and respond to the following in your paper:
- Discuss what you believe would have been the correct way to handle each situation (if there are several examples, discuss each example.)
- Provide some support for your solution – this cannot just be your opinion. Support should come from articles and real-life situations (articles can be any type as long as they are trusted sources – no blogs). Be sure to consider your proposed solution from the viewpoint of various stakeholders and explain how your solution treats stakeholders ethically.
- Answer/discuss any additional questions that are included in the topic.
- Be sure to comment on how each scenario or subject impacts the sport industry and how it would impact the decisions of the various sport managers in those situations.
- Regulating coach behavior
What ethical level should coaches be held to? Should they be held to a higher standard than players seeing as they set the tone for the team? Should a coach’s off-field behavior be subject to regulation by the university, team, or league that employs him or her? Situations:
NY Jets strength coach Sal Alosi tripped Miami Dolphins player Nolan Carroll during a Monday Night Football game as Carroll ran by the Jets bench. Alosi was suspended for the remainder of the season and fined $25,000 by the NFL. Was this enough disciplinary action?
In 2002 University of Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel won $25,000 in an office pool related to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Even though Neuheisel coached a different sport, the NCAA prohibits any athletic staff from gambling on NCAA events. The NCAA committee on infractions investigated and found that Neuheisel violated NCAA rules but did not sanction him. The university fired Neuheisel but he sued the school and the NCAA and won $4.5 million (he had 5 years remaining on his contract).
Rick Pitino had been a very successful college basketball coach but in 2003 his personal conduct became an issue. A woman was convicted for trying to extort money from Pitino, and he admitted to having an affair with her. Pitino apologized for his indiscretions and gave the woman $3000 to have an abortion. His coaching contract did have a clause in it for “moral depravity” but he faced no sanctions. See also Pitino’s recent actions that led to his firing.
See also Bobby Petrino at Louisville.
- Sport Media Coverage
The media constantly faces issues related to what to air and what not air – with current technology, images and events can be captured and aired almost instantly. The more controversial the image or topic, the more people seem to want to see it and media outlets are constantly chasing ratings. Aside from immediate controversial images, there are continuous decisions about which stories to choose from. Consider who gets the spotlight and who doesn’t. Examples:
In the 2010 winter Olympics a Georgian Luger was tragically killed during a training run. NBC decided to air the footage of the accident with the following warning, “We owe folks a warning here, these pictures are very tough for some people to watch.” Should the footage have been used? Could the story have been told just as well without showing the actual accident?
Sports fans are often exposed to the poor behavior of athletes, but well behaved athletes are often ignored in the media. Take Tim Duncan, for example – 4 NBA championships, an MVP finalist 3 times, was voted to 12 All-Start teams, and was rookie of the year. One journalist put it this way, “Tim Duncan is plain vanilla and has no media appeal. I don’t think the media is looking for that kind of black athlete. Where’s the story with a player who doesn’t carry lots of baggage?” Should the sport media focus more on majority of athletes who are law abiding and helping their community rather than the few who engage in bad behavior?
See also the media’s involvement in the “National Anthem protests.”
- Player cheating – what constitutes cheating and what doesn’t?
Cheating in sports in generally considered unethical, however what gets labeled as cheating and what does not is often very controversial. Additionally, some sports have more acceptance than others and bending the rules is often considered to be strategy. Think about what gets called cheating and what doesn’t, where should the line be drawn?
Mark Schlereth was an offensive lineman for the Denver Broncos. To gain an advantage in a playoff game he and other lineman coated their arms and jerseys with Vaseline so that they would harder to hang onto. They also covered their hands in a sticky substance. After the Broncos won the game, Schlereth admitted to using Vaseline and the sticky substance and had this to say, “You’re damn right…what you call cheating is a fine line, it’s an interesting line. What we did in the locker room, is called being creative. Certain types of cheating is snickered at or applauded.” Was this cheating? Should there have been sanctions?
In a game between the Blue Jays and the Yankees in 2007, Alex Rodrigues, as a base runner for the Yankees yelled “ha!” in an effort to distract the Blue Jays third baseman Howie Clark from catching a fly ball. It worked and he dropped the ball. This behavior is not against the rules and A-Rod saw no sanctions for his actions, although it was viewed as a “bush league” tactic by many. Rodriguez responded, “We’re desperate. We haven’t won a game in awhile and we won this game.” Should this type of behavior be against the rules?
See also Tom Brady “Deflategate”. Baseball sign stealing;
- When to regulate fan behavior
Are certain types if heckling off limits for fans? How much should a fan be able to say to a player or a coach? What should they be able to say to other fans? Fans can be ejected for poor sportsmanship and conduct but where should that line be drawn?
In 2004, Michael Katz, a NY Knicks fan received a warning card from a security card and was ordered to stop what he was doing or he would immediately be ejected. Katz was not cursing but merely yelling critical remarks at Knicks coach, Isaiah Thomas. Verbal criticism of Thomas was common in 2004, with fans often chanting, “Fire Thomas!” What type of conduct should a fan be ejected for?
In 2007 it was reported that some NY Jets fans would gather at halftime on a pedestrian ramp and chant obscenities at women and encourage them to expose their breasts. While no fans were directly or warned or ejected for this behavior, the Jets issued this statement to the media, “We expect our fans to comply with all rules at the stadium and the vast majority of them do. For those who don’t, we expect and encourage security to take appropriate action.” What types of conduct should be tolerated from fans? Should the league set standards for fan behavior or let individual teams deal with it?
See also British/international soccer fans
- Regulating Player off-field behavior
Because of the fame of many college and pro athletes, poor behavior by athletes often becomes headline news. This is a concern because it embarrasses the school/team/league. To what extent should teams, leagues, universities try to regulate the off-field/court behavior of players? Which offenses deserve to be punished?
In 2009, Donte Stallworth, a wider receiver for the Cleveland Browns was driving under the influence when he hit and killed a 59 year old man. Stallworth pled guilty to manslaughter and served 24 days in jail. He was then placed on probation and performed 1,000 hours of community service. He was suspended for the 2009 season by the NFL. Did Stallworth receive preferential treatment by the justice system because he was an athlete? Were the NFL sanctions appropriate?
In 2005, the NBA announce a dress code for players which excluded certain items of clothing while on team or league business:
- sleeveless shirts
- t-shirts, jerseys, sports apparel (unless appropriate for the event, like a clinic or camp)
- headgear of any kind
- chains, pendants, medallions work over the player’s clothes
- sunglasses indoors
Some players contended that the league ban on chains worn over clothing was a racist statement from the NBA. Indiana Pacers guard Stephen Jackson said, “I think it’s a racist statement because a lot of the guys who are wearing chains over their clothes are my age and black. I do think we need to look professional and a lot of guys have gotten sloppy with the way they dress. I’ll wear a suit everyday. It’s one thing to enforce a dress code, and it’s another thing if you’re attacking cultures and that’s what I think they’re doing.” What do you think about Jackson’s statements? Does the jewelry policy go too far in regulating player dress? Should the NBA have negotiated this issue with the players’ union?
The term social media did not exist just a few years ago but is now a common phrase in the business and sport community. Such technological advances have enabled more sport fans to feel close to the game but the comments of many individuals can go unchecked. Many sport leagues now have policies regulating behavior on social media. A University of Texas student-athlete was dismissed from the university’s football team for making disturbing Facebook comments about President Obama. The comment said, “All hunters gather up, we have a (racial slur) in the White House.” Should schools limit and monitor what athletes post on social media or is that an invasion of privacy and violating the players’ rights to free speech?
See also Ray Rice, Joe Mixon and the countless other domestic violence cases.
- How to handle racist comments by athletes and media
Racial issues have a long history in sport. While there have been many gains made toward racial equality in sport, they were all hard fought and we still hear many allegations of discrimination in sport. One continuing issue has surrounded the way that many media personnel refer to minority athletes.
In 1997, Fuzzy Zoeller made the following comments about Tiger woods during the Masters Golf tournament. “That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him to serve fried chicken next year. Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.” Do you think Zoeller’s comments were racist? How do you think the PGA should have handled the incident?
In 2003, Rush Limbaugh was hired by ESPN as an analyst and he made the following comments about quarterback Donovan McNabb, “Sorry to say this but I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go…I think what we had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has gotten very desirous that a black quarterback do well. McNabb had gotten a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he didn’t deserve.” Limbaugh was forced to resign from ESPN for these comments. Also, in 2009 Limbaugh was considering becoming an owner of the St. Louis Rams franchise. Some people objected to his ownership because of his comments about McNabb. Do you consider Limbaugh’s comments racist? Do you agree that he should have been prevented from owning an NFL team?
Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was a very well-known sportscaster. He was fired after 12 years with CBS for remarks he made about the abilities of black and white athletes. Snyder said black athletes are “bred to be the better athlete because, this goes all the way back to the Civil War when the slave owner would breed his big women so he would have a big black kid.” He later apologized for his comments but was fired.
After a career as an NFL wide receiver, Michael Irvin became a TV sport commentator. In 2006 he made the following comments about Cowboys’ Quarterback Tony Romo, “There must be some brothers in that line somewhere…maybe his great, great Grandma ran over in the hood and something went down.” Irvin later apologized for the comments saying he was only joking. An ESPN spokesman said they had “spoken to Irvin about his comments,” but he was not fired. Were Irvin’s comments racist? How do his comments compare with those of Rush Limbaugh and Jimmy the Greek? Should Irvin have been fired?
Don Imus was a world-famous radio talk-show host famous for his cutting-edge style. In 2007, he made some very controversial statements concerning the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. Those comments thrust Imus and his radio show into the national spotlight. “That’s some pretty rough girls from Rutgers, that’s some nappy-headed ho’s there. The girls from Tennessee, they all look cute.” The Imus radio show was canceled by CBS radio over the incident. Do you agree with how the situation was handled?
See also Richie Incognito, both 2013 and 2018 incidents.
- Agent Behavior
Agents owe a certain responsibility to players to carry out duties in good faith on behalf of the athlete and avoid all conflicts of interest. However because player contracts are quite complicated, there are instances of agents taking advantage of some players’ inability to understand the contracts.
Assume an agent represents two NBA players who play the same position and are both unrestricted free agents able to sign with any team. During negotiations with an NBA team, the agent is told by the team that the salary cap only allows the signing of one of the players. Does the agent have a conflict of interest? What are the agent’s ethical duties?
How much should an agent charge their client? Should player unions regulate the fee structure between players and agents? Agent fees in baseball are not regulated by MLB but are individually negotiated between player and agent. But agents in MLB can only charge a fee if the agent negotiates a salary above the league minimum. The NFL allows an agent to charge a fee on a league minimum contract even though the player would be entitled to the minimum without an agent.
- Parental Involvement in Sport
You can cite a number of cases where parents are excessively involved in the athletic exploits of their children. Research cases of parental behavior at youth sport events and comment per the assignment instructions.
Identify and comment on the actions of “famous” sport parents. Some interesting families could include be LaVar Ball, Earl Woods, Todd Marinovich and Tonya Harding’s mother.