Ep 5: Sports Ethics

Ep 5: Sports Ethics


Well, hello again everybody. I’m Rick
Burton. I’m the David B. Falk professor of sport management at Syracuse University and
this is part of our Massive Open Online Course that, I guess, many have you have been
going through. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the previous episodes that we’ve had, And, I hope you actually are having a
good time, you know, the last couple weeks. Unfortunately, we’re not likely to have
any one-on-one relationship, but, I can ask you how you
are and I can tell you that I’ve spent the last month in Australia, and my
students here are now giving me a hard time about my long hair and the fact that I need to get a haircut, and if
you were in a classroom with me you could do the same. The interesting thing that I ran into, while I was
down in Australia, was a situation where a team had actually been involved in, it appears,
and we’ll use that language because either for legal reasons or just because
it’s appropriate to be diplomatic. appeared to have been
giving its players drugs without the players actually knowing
what the drug was. The big issue involved now
in Australian Football is kinda the responsibility of the team in
trying to enhance the performance of its players. Now, today’s class is actually coming to you
from a baseball stadium. Now, what makes that interesting
is as we kinda walk out to the field coming from the dug out, is
that in American Major League Baseball we’ve actually had
a number of players who were recently suspended. And one player is actually challenging
his suspension and still playing. You may be familiar with
his name Alex Rodriguez. He plays for the New York Yankees.
And, what’s interesting is that Major League Baseball has a
rule that allows them to allow him to continue to
play while he appeals, what appears to be, a likely
suspension, possibly, for performance-enhancing drugs. A
number of other players have already accepted their punishment and have been banned or have been sat
down now for a period of probation. Alex is still playing. My issue
today is not really with whether or not alex has used drugs or not but as much
to talk to you about the fact that we can’t have a discussion about modern
sport management or sports marketing without realizing that a lot of times
the athletes who are involved with sports are going to be caught doing something
that they shouldn’t have done. Now, in one of our earlier episodes we talked about
recovery marketing. How you recover from a situation like that and it varies by
case by sport by geography of where you may be taking this class from, or
the sports that you may be familiar with. But, what I want to get into today
is perhaps maybe even your own ethical thinking and how you view the
concept of right and wrong. Now, if we were in a classroom together,
I’d give you an assignment. I’d actually say to you, “I want you to write down an occasion where you know
you did something wrong.” Maybe you cheated on a test,
maybe you stole something maybe you lied. For a lot of us, I think the
psychologists and social thinkers would probably tend to say that most of us by
and large are good people. Most of us know right from wrong. And, it
can’t be from me to tell you what’s right or what’s wrong. But, what’s interesting is
if you were writing down that occasion where you
actually broke the law or where you did something that you
knew was wrong, how you felt about that and whether there was a situation
where you felt like you should keep doing that again or you said to yourself I’m never gonna do that, ever again. Now, we
know in a situation like Lance Armstrong, the cyclist, that Lance told everyone for years and years
that he was clean, that he wasn’t using drugs, that his victories in the Tour de France
were all legitimate, and anyone who accused him of using drugs was a liar and that they
were out to get him. A number of years go by and finally
he comes to a point where he says, “No, I was the one who was lying and I
was using the drugs.” Now, what’s interesting to me on that
subject is not so much that Lance was using the drugs, but how many other people in his
inner circle knew that. Were there a lot of people, let’s say
associated with his sponsors, that might have known, that might have
guessed, that he was involved. And, at what point was someone
supposed to step forward and say this is wrong. We’ve had situations on
the American sports landscape recently where this is kinda very much been a topic
that has bothered people. We had an institution, a major university, in the American
sports system, the National Collegiate Athletic
Association, where a retired assistant coach appeared
to have been abusing young men in the locker room. And an
assistant coach saw it and he reported it, but others
may not have done enough. So, one of the questions that we always
face with ethics is, am i doing enough, and are the people
around me being inspired to do enough, also. And what happens when I stumble
into a situation where I absolutely know the wrong thing
is being done. Am I gonna be afraid to actually tell
someone because I think I might lose my job. Am i willing to actually quit my job
because I know the wrong thing is happening. Well, it’s easy for me to stand here and
kinda mention that to you to say that, “Hey it’s a problem. You need to go
forward. You need to report that.” If that instance was happening to your
sister, to your brother, to your someone who is close
to you and your family, wouldn’t you take a hard stand. And, yet
in the sports world we know for a fact that the rules get broken all the time, and we’re
not talking just about drugs we know that there have been situations
like with Tiger Woods, where, it appears, that he broke the
relationship that he had with his wife at the time and was involved in a
great deal of infidelity. Again, it’s not for me to cast judgment
but I do think there were probably a lot of people who knew about that who had a chance to maybe
say, “This isn’t right and this will come back to
bite us at some point.” So, let me pause here for a moment. I
don’t want to try and put too much on you right now and I don’t wanna come across as
being holier-than-thou or being too righteous. But, let me put up these questions for
you on the screen and actually have you think about them
for a minute. So, the questions that you see on the screen in front of you are part of a research project that I’m
working on with a professor from Central Washington University
named Mark Pritchard. And, what you see there are, question number
1: What are ethics and where do we see ethical breaches
today? Question 2: Why are personal ethics
important in sports business? Question 3: Which theories, inside the the discovery of ethics, help explain
how we make ethical decisions? And the last one; what factors shape your
ethics and your response to moral dilemmas. Now, I can tell you for a fact that a lot of us see things that are
ethically inappropriate and we see them a lot of the time.
And, it’s hard for sport management and sports marketing
courses to actually teach ethics because who’s to say what’s right and what’s
wrong. This is a book that I’ve used before called “Sport Marketing.” Three great professors,
Bernie Mullin, Stephen Hardy and Bill Sutton put this together and I’ve used
it many many times. But, if you go to the index of this book
and you look up the word ethics, there’s only two pages dedicated to the discussion of ethics and that is
from an early edition of this book, but it may help explain that inside
sports marketing, it’s tricky for us to actually get our
hands around ethical pieces. Let me read a couple more things to you.
Three quotes that we’ve used inside of this research that we’re doing. “Goodness is easier to recognize than to
define.” Think about that. “Goodness is easier to
recognize than to define.” The second quote we use
from Ralph Waldo Emerson is, “A man’s action is only a picture book of
his creed.” And of course we can make that
gender-neutral by saying that, A woman’s action is only a picture book
of her Creed.” And the last one, from a guy from about
2,000 years ago, a guy named Paul of Tarsus said, “If anyone competes as an athlete he
does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according
to the rules.” Now, what makes the discussion of the rules
really interesting is, if everybody’s clear on what the rules are,
why do we have so many occasions where the rules are broken? And, why do we think that the rule
breaking is only done by the athletes? The players out on the field, as opposed to, possibly, being done by the people that run the leagues, or,
possibly, being done by the people who own the team’s or manage the team’s. Now, that’s not a
condemnation of everyone in sport and I think as many of you know, I used
to serve as the commissioner of a professional basketball league down in Australia. And I know that a lot
of times that people think that things are rigged by the league. In actual fact to try and create a
situation where the league might benefit. I’ll give you a perfect example.
I hear it a lot of the times, that whichever team gets the first pick
in a lottery draft, and in a lot of leagues they use ping pong
balls and the commissioner will reach in and grab out a ping pong ball and say and the first draft will go to… And
whoever that ball happens to represent whichever team is. That someone will say, “Aw,
that was rigged. The league wanted that team to get the best player
coming into the league.” So, we actually have suspicions that
people were cheating and probably runs all the way up through every
sport organisation. So, we come back to, how do we know what
you’re going to do when you’re faced with a situation? Now, as part of what I’ve been discussing,
I suggested that a lot of our familiarity
with breached ethics was associated with athletes. But, look at
these numbers on the screen right now from research done by Marchetti in
1997 and it involved the survey of 200 sales managers. Now, it doesn’t really
matter to us, perhaps, whether or not the sale was of
any particular item. Let’s just assume that these are sales
managers selling a product. Forty-nine percent of the surveyed
managers said their reps lied on a sales call. Thirty-four percent
said they’ve heard reps make unrealistic promises on a sales call. Twenty-two percent said their reps
have sold products their customers didn’t need. Thirty percent
said customers have demanded a kickback for buying their product or service. Fifty-four
percent, more than half the people, say the drive to meet sales goals did a
disservice to their customers and the last statistic there,
Twenty-seven percent said that they have caught employees
cheating on an expense report. We know that there’s graft in business,
we know that there’s corruption all around us. But, how does that affect you as an
individual? And again I have to laugh because I can’t make you make the right decision I can only ask, do you have a personal
set of ethics? Now, it may be driven by your religion, it
may be driven by the way you were raised by your parents or the
Guardian’s that helped bring you of age. But, who actually
determines right and wrong? And, I’m not sure that it’s fair for any
of us, me or you, to put that off on someone else. To say, “well
I’m only following the rules made by someone else.” Back to that concept of the golden rule.
“Well, he or she owns the company, so, he or she gets to make the rules and
I’m just doing what everybody else does.” Somewhere, along the way in your career,
you’re going to have to say, “I’m lying to our customers and
I’m gonna stop, or my customers are asking
something of me that I can’t do.” It may not happen today.
It may not happen in your career, ever. It may not happen for twenty years. But, my sense is, with most of us, you’ll face that
and you’ll face it sooner than later. There was a famous sports writer, a long
long time ago, named Grantland Rice and you’ll see on the screen right now,
in front of you, that he wrote, one time, back in 1941, imagining that there was a
great scorer in the sky, kind of, who would review your life and his
quote was, “For when the one great scorer comes to write
against your name, he marks not that you won or lost but
how you played the game.” An interesting concept that
somewhere, ultimately, it may not be about the winning or
losing you’re doing in the short term, it’s going to be about how you conducted
yourself. Let me give you something from 1992. Badaracco spoke
about the fact that “Fundamentally simple approaches to hard moral choices are beguilingly
clear, simple, praiseworthy – and misleading. The search for some grand
unifying principle of management morality leads to frustration and often cynicism.” So, in simplifying
a discussion of right and wrong, I can also actually create a lot of
problems for you, as was just suggested in the material you saw on the screen. If I oversimplify it and say,
“Do the right thing.” It can actually frustrate you because you may
not know what the right thing is and it’ll introduced then, who are you
going to turn to, to ask, “Am i doing the right thing?” Who do you
trust to have a sense of right from wrong? Where a lot of us go is we turn to the
companies we work for and I’d like to read to you an example from a
company that I’m pretty familiar with and an individual that I’ve talked
to, before, personally, and that’s Phil Knight, the chairman
and founder of Nike, and this was what Nike said to its
employees as recently as 2011, and it was called a message from
Phil. He said, “At Nike, we are on the offense, always. We play hard, we play to win, and we play
by the rules of the game. This code of ethics is vitally important. It contains the rules of the game for
Nike, the rules we live by and what we stand
for. Please read it, and if you’ve read it
before, read it again. Then take some time to
think about what it says and make a commitment to
play by it. Defining the Nike playing field ensures
no matter how dynamic and challenging Nike may be, our actions
and decisions fit with our shared values.” Now, I can’t sit here and tell you anything
about whether everyone at Nike is ethical. Or, whether everyone at Nike does the
right thing. But, I can tell you that I admire Phil Knight and always have, and believe that his company has a
strong moral compass. Now, many of you may think that Nike did
this or Nike did that and you can’t believe what i’m saying. That’s fine. That’s for you to choose
what you believe. But, I do think that it’s an example
at least having read to you what Phil Knight has said to all of his employees. That they have rules. They have standards
that they want to try and live by, and I’ve gotta believe that if a Nike
employee came forward to his or her manager, or director, or vice
president and said, “Hey, I think I’ve uncovered a situation where
we’re not consistent with what Phil Knight said, about how we
play the game, and how we live by the rules, and i wanna
come forward and say that. And, if it cost me my job or it costs me
a promotion I at least wanna know that when I go to
bed tonight I did, what I perceive to be, the right thing, based on what my company told me to do. So, some of you may be entrepreneurs. You
may have to create the rules for yourselves. Some of you are gonna work for big
organizations that are gonna seem like they don’t care about you
in the slightest. My hope is that as you get to a position
where you are faced with an ethical choice you actually have the
opportunity to think about what you would do, should
do, and whether or not the organization is giving you an ability to actually do the right thing. There’s an old joke in our family, we used to say to
different members that they were outstanding in a field. And, what we really, generally, meant was that they were out, standing in a field.
That’s where I’ve been for most of this discussion today, or
down in the dugout talking about a subject that makes a
lot of people uncomfortable. But, I think what’s fun for us in having
the discussion is that, it allows you to own your own sense of
what’s right and what’s wrong and it allows you to own your sense of ethical decision-making. You see all
around you, in almost every sport, in every country
in the world, things that you know are wrong.
Athletes coming forward admitting they’ve made mistakes, teams making choices that endangered
their players, and I think that all of us have at least
got to attempt to make the world a better place and that sounds like so
much pablum. But, I think, ultimately, if I were gonna
try and teach you, if you were in a class sitting with me face to face, I’d be saying virtually the same thing
to you. We’ve gotta make good choices and we’ve gotta make choices influenced,
largely, by doing the better thing for the most people. I hope you’ve enjoyed
today’s session. I’m Rick Burton David Falk professor of sport management
at Syracuse University, and you’ve been part of our Massive Open Online
Education program. We’ll see you in the next episode. We’ll try and
give you some homework or maybe a final exam

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *