Chapter 3 – Sport Ethics – concepts and cases in sport and recreation (2nd Edition)
David Malloy, Saul Ross, Dwight Zakus
2003, Thompson Educational Publishing, Inc. Canada
“That’s cheating!” “No, it’s not!”
“That’s wrong!” “No, it’s perfectly alright!”
“That’s bad!” “No, it isn’t!”
“That’s improper behavior!” “No, it’s not!”
“That’s a violation of policy!” “No, it isn’t!”
“That may not be an actual violation, “If it’s not a violation
but it certainly goes against the of the rules, then
spirit of the rules.” it is perfectly acceptable.”
Comments such as these all reflect a concern for ethics and ethical behavior. Each comment is an expression of a moral judgment about some behavior exhibited. Each comment uttered is the result of an evaluation or assessment made of the behavior in relation to an explicit or implicit standard. These comments are usually uttered based on observations of the behavior exhibited. The assessments originate from the observer’s own set of beliefs about what is right or wrong, what is good or bad, or what is permissible or unacceptable.
A critical question emerges from the preceding comments: From where docs the standard come that the person uses to assess behavior and then render judgment? The beginning of an answer to the possible bases for ethical standards will be presented later in this chapter and a more elaborate treatment is reserved for the fourth chapter, “Sources of Ethical Decision··Making.”
From this brief digression we return to an examination of the ways we make moral judgments. Frequently there is no critical examination nor probing of the set of beliefs, the actual basis for rendering moral judgment, used by the person making such comments. In part this is due to the paucity of attention paid to the study of ethics, generally, and to sport ethics, particularly, at all levels of schooling. While each individual has a personal sense of morality, without the serious, disciplined study of ethics it is not surprising to discover that most people are unaware of the bases for moral judgment. This text aims to consider ably reduce this lack of knowledge through the information provided below.
ln ordinary, everyday circumstances, human behavior is not pre-analyzed for us. There are, however, some instances when this does occur. For example, there arc times when teachers, parents, administrators, religious officials, writers of articles for newspapers and magazines, or authors of books discuss certain events. Then, through their analyses, they point out the good and the bad, the right and the wrong. These instances are few compared to the many times when we have to analyze the situation by ourselves. Consequently, there is an obvious need to comprehend the realm of ethics and to learn how to conduct moral reasoning.
Divergent Assessment of Behavior
A list of contradictory statements appears at the start of this chapter. These comments result from observations of blatant acts. If both observers (in each set of statements) saw the same action, yet came to hold different opinions, there is a need to (1) explore how two observers could possibly hold such divergent views, and (2) devise a method that should enable them, and us, to decide which is a justified view. We shortly will undertake these tasks. To help us deal with these challenges we need to turn our attention first. to some preliminary matters: (1) the definition and elaboration of terns such as ethics, morals, values, and norms, and (2) briefly deal with some historical aspects of ethics (additional information on this topic is presented in Chapter 4.). These discussions will provide the basis for the development of the first model for rendering moral judgments. A second, more elaborate and complex model will be presented in the third chapter, “Factors Influencing Decision Making.”
In one sense it seems almost redundant to provide definitions for such common terms as ethics, morals, values, and norms since these words are often used in everyday speech. Ironically, it is because of the widespread use (and misuse at times) of these words that they have taken on many meanings, thus indicating a need for the provision of definitions to standardize our understanding. Definitions are provided, along with pertinent elaborations, to clarify current usage and to pro vide additional insights into the axiological framework. Understandings derived from the definitions will facilitate the reading of the text.
Ethics is a sub-discipline of philosophy. Ethics, as the word is commonly used, is concerned with issues of right and wrong in human conduct. It is concerned with what is good and what is bad; what is authentic and is not authentic. Ethics is also concerned with the notions of duty, obligation, and moral responsibility. As such, ethics are manifested in behavior and assessed through the application of ethical inquiry and critical moral reasoning.
An understanding of what is, and what ought to be, is basic to assessing behavior in terms of right/wrong, good/bad, or authentic/inauthentic. To assess behavior, what is ethical, as a basis for rendering moral judgment, we need to know what is right, what is good, and what is authentic. Although the three terms, right, good, and authentic, refer to ethical standards, there are differences among them. Generally, we employ the terms right and wrong in situations where rules and laws are applicable; we use the terms good and bad when we focus our attention on the consequences of the act; and we apply the terms authentic and inauthentic to situations where the person examines his or her own behavior critically. The section entitled “Three Ethical Bases” below contains additional information regarding these differences.
Ethics, as the study of morals, refers to that specific branch of philosophy that critically examines, clarifies, and reframes the basic concepts and presuppositions of ethical theories and of n1on:tlity generally. The contemporary organization of this branch of philosophy is comprised, roughly, into two categories, meta-ethics and applied ethics.
Meta-ethics is more theoretical in nature as it trains its sights on the logic, coherence, and presuppositions found in each ethical theory. In contrast, as the term suggests, applied ethics is much more concerned with examining behavior in terms of right and wrong, good or bad, authentic and inauthentic.
Both meta-ethics and applied ethics interrelate at the level of theory and practice. We must ground ethical theory in actual human existence, f(n· if that were not so, it would be difficult to imagine its applicability. And, as we base moral judgment on some standard or ethical maxim, we must invoke some ethical theory. Ethical theory unavoidably forms the basis of moral judgment.
Morals, generally, is the term more often used when referring to actions, behavior, and the principles that guide them. Technically speaking, morality is a central concept of ethics but it is not the whole of ethics. Morality often refers to certain principles that seem to make absolute and universal claims (e.g., thou shalt not kill).
In contemporary times, moral is the term applied to an individual’s actions. Through moral categories we can judge if that particular behavior was right or wrong, good or bad, virtuous or evil.
Three Ethical Bases
Throughout history, serious thinkers have explored and proposed a wide range of sources as the base for ethics. These bases are often called ethical theories. Some approaches have persisted over time as generally accepted bases for ethics. Three are of particular interest. A brief introductory comment is presented here to serve as the basis for a more extensive discussion in the next chapter.
Deontology (Categorical) is a rule-based approach, focusing on obligation and duty, similar to the orientation found in the Bible. Since attention is directed to the act itself, this approach is non-consequentialist or categorical.
Teleology (Consequential) is an approach that focuses on the consequences of the action, one that conceives of ethics as concerned with measuring the amount of goodness, or badness, arising from behavior. Attention is directed towards assessing the consequences of a particular action rather than examining the act itself.
In contemporary times, under the influence of post-World War II European thought, generally called existentialism, attention was directed squarely on the individual. Concepts such as authenticity, which refers to how true the person is to himself or herself) integrity, and genuineness are factors that must be considered in judging each individual act at that particular time within the context of the unique circumstances prevailing.
Each of the three bases or approaches listed above identifies a source from which we derive ethical maxims. Problems can, and usually will, arise during moral discourse if there is no explicit agreement reached regarding which ethical maxim will serve as the measuring rod. Using different ethical bases can lead to divergent judgments.
An example will serve to illustrate the case. A hockey player on Team A is about to skate free on a breakaway with the likelihood of scoring a goal. A defender on Team B deliberately trips the opposing player to prevent the goal and the television announcer, in reporting the play, adds that it was a good foul. Phrased in this manner, the announcer is praising a violation of the rules. If a rule-based orientation is the source of the ethical maxim, then clearly the defender deliberately violated a rule and, therefore, it is judged as wrong or bad. However, if one takes a consequentialist approach, one can argue that the defender, by tripping the opponent, ensured a win for Team B. This, thereby, produces more good/happiness for the defending team than bad/ sadness for the opposing team. Since the good/happiness for one team outweighs the bad/sadness of the other team, the deliberate rule violation was, in reality, a good foul. From an existential perspective, the player committing the foul would need to examine his or her conscience to decide whether a deliberate violation of the rules is an instance of authentic behavior.
Ethical Bases and Values Clarification
Three different and distinct sources have been briefly sketched; ethical maxims can be derived from each of these three sources. As illustrated in the case just described, the behavior under scrutiny can be assessed from all three ethical bases and, on occasion, somewhat surprisingly, contrary ethical judgments can be rendered. This creates a new problem that needs addressing. Which of the three moral judgments do we accept and which do we reject?
Confronting this problem requires, among other things, the clarification of your own values. Do you regard adhering to higher principles and obeying the rules as more important or valuable than evaluating the goodness (or badness) resulting from an action’!) Or do you sub scribe to the view that the end justifies the means, particularly in situations where the end creates more goodness than badness’? If this is your belief, are you prepared to break rules in cases where, on balance, you predict more goodness than badness will result from your actions!) How important is it for you to be authentic, to behave in a way that is consistent with what you truly believe in?
When faced with a choice, which do you value more highly: Obeying the rules under any circumstances? Or making certain that the result of your actions produces more goodness than badness, no matter the behavior used to attain that goal? Or is it maintaining authenticity, that is, being true to yourself at all times without regard for adherence to the rules and possible outcomes regarding goodness and badness? As you rank these options in order of your personal preference you are engaging in a values clarification exercise through which you will (1) learn more about yourself and (2) obtain some insights into which ethical base (theory), categorical (rules, non-consequentialism), consequential (outcome, consequentialism), or existentialism (authenticity), is more likely to influence your thinking and moral reasoning.
Why Be Ethical?
There is an ethical dimension embedded in all of our behavior. This observation applies equally to individuals and to organizations, as people comprise these groups and make decisions that lead to action. Ethics permeates all of our behavior, encompassing our interactions with other human beings, with animals, and with the environment. Viewed in this light, we suggest that ethical considerations are more than vague theoretical abstractions, since they apply to every move we make. Usually the moral component remains unnoticed because we generally treat each other ethically. When behavior departs from the norm, we quickly become aware of the ethical aspect.
Since there is an ethical dimension to all of our behavior, it behooves us to consider carefully how we ought to behave. Why should administrators, leaders, teachers, coaches, players, students, participants, and professionals in all fields behave morally?
Rendering Moral Judgment
Differences of opinion over moral issues have probably existed since the beginning of Time, since our forebears began interacting with each other. A review of contemporary writings reveals disagreement and controversy between philosophers, professional practitioners, theologians, and throughout the public. We cannot expect to find unanimity in ethics and in moral judgments except on rare occasions. When we find agreement, it occurs mostly when the exhibited behavior is at either one of the extreme ends of the moral spectrum. Behavior that contains minimal ethical content is rarely subject to scrutiny or cause for dispute. Since we readily reach agreement in such cases without serious discussion we learn very little. Similarly, blatant, flagrant, obvious immoral acts provoke little, if any, moral disagreement. In such cases discussion tends to focus on the motivation that prompted the act or on the sanctions likely lo be applied.
Between these two extremes are countless acts that invite moral judgment. Ethical dilemmas emerge daily in every facet of professional practice, incidents and events that demand our scrutiny. When we begin discussing those incidents and behavior we are engaged in doing ethics. Doing ethics involves judging human beings in terms of ends or goals attained and the means used t:o achieve them. Included in this approach is an examination of the relationship between the means and the ends. Doing ethics involves using data and it also requires techniques of describing, assessing, judging, and making decisions.
Examining data critically to render moral judgment is part of a process called moral reasoning Moral reasoning is a systematic approach that enables us to probe deeply in order to see things with greater clarity. It frees us from dogmatic, preconceived, and prejudiced thinking. Freedom from these intellectual restrictions creates cognitive independence. Issues and statements are analyzed critically using rational thought in place of emotional appeal. An integral part of moral reasoning is the requirement to provide reasons to support the position taken or the rendered moral judgment.
Providing reasons places the discussion above the level of mere opinion. If the discussion remains at: the level of mere opinion, we make little, if any, advancement or progress. All opinions are of equal value. We are each entitled to our opinion. Stating, and restating, opinion gains us very little, although this is often the case in moral discussion. When we offer reasons in support of the view expressed, the impasse is often broken. Once we offer reasons, we can evaluate them in terms of their pertinence, cogency, and force. By comparing the total strength of the reasons provided in support of one view to the total force of a contrary view, we can determine which is the more logical and/or stronger case.
Through critical examination of the reasons given, faulty logic, inconsistent thinking or inapplicable rationales can be detected. Disciplined, impartial, logical thinking is required to criticize the reasons given and to ferret out discrepancies. This analytical process, difficult and arduous at times, leads to greater moral insights, thus placing· the dialogue well beyond the realm of mere opinion. When moral reasoning is used, the discussion is placed on a different level, one well above what is found in a “bull session.” Based on rational thought and sound reasoning, the moral judgments rendered through this process are apt to better withstand criticism.
Moral reasoning is not conducted as an exercise in abstract thought. As applied ethics, moral reasoning aims to identify and delineate right conduct and correct behavior. As cases in Chapters 8 and 9 are explored and analyzed, we become aware of the moral options available to us as well as the wide range of ethical dilemmas that are encountered as real-life issues. Caution must be used before declaring an action absolutely right or absolutely wrong, absolutely good or absolutely bad. There are shades of grey when judging human conduct.
Moral reasoning is a skill that needs to be acquired. Like all other skills, practice, often guided by a more knowledgeable person, is required in order to improve one’s ability. Ample opportunity to practice moral reasoning skills is provided in Chapters 8 and 9, where a wide array of case studies are found. As you tackle each one you will be engaged in moral discourse.
A person is accountable for his or her actions. Technically, we identify that person as an agent. To understand what it means t:o be accountable requires an understanding of what it means to be an agent. An agent has free will and the power to act. Having free will and the power t:o act allows the agent to choose, from among options, which action to do. By choosing to act in a certain way, an agent accepts responsibility for that action and its consequences. An agent is accountable for actions done intentionally; here we link accountability to intention, which is an integral part of action. Involuntary actions and accidental actions are generally placed in another moral category. Both motivation and intention are not always obvious. Difficulties may be encountered in determining the status of motivation and intention in the act.
Five Steps for Rendering Ethical Judgment-Model I
Step One: Obtain and clarify all the pertinent facts of the case or incident
To ensure that everyone involved in the discussion is operating from the same base, it is important that all the facts be presented. Everyone needs to know exactly what occurred. We must consider the incident, not only in its proper chronological order, but also in terms of who was present and their roles, responsibilities, and understandings (both tacit and explicit) that prevailed then. This step is similar to evidence being presented at a trial in court. In order for the judge and jury to arrive at a just verdict, all the facts of the case need to be presented. The same line of thinking applies to moral reasoning.
Step Two: Identify and enunciate the ethical maxim(s) to be used
Omission of this step will likely add confusion as the use of different implicit maxims will create a situation where people talk past each other. The identification and enunciation of an ethical maxim serves to direct the discussion along one path of moral reasoning. Here we can focus the debate as everyone involved understands the yardstick being used as the measuring rod.
An ethical maxim is a general moral principle, rule, law, or moral doctrine one adopts or formulates to serve as a yardstick against which behavior is to be measured. It can be understood as a moral rule of thumb and, as such, it can also serve to guide behavior.
As explained earlier, the three ethical theories, categorical, consequential, and existentialism, are sources from which ethical maxims can be derived. From a categorical (non-consequential) perspective we can ask the following questions: Are there any specific rules which apply? Are there any “unwritten” but generally accepted procedures which are pertinent.? Do any of the policies of the institution cover the issue at hand? Are there broader social standards that can be invoked? Do any of the particular laws of the jurisdiction apply? If there is a rule governing that behavior then that rule serves as an ethical maxim. lf no rule is applicable the next step may be to consult the institution’s policies, and procedures. Generally speaking, it is easier to arrive at consensus where explicit rules or clear statements are available. A consensus is more difficult: to obtain in the realm of “unwritten” rules and social standards since these areas are amenable to a wider array of interpretation. Laws, clearly, can serve as ethical maxims. Laws, rules, policies, and procedures can also be terribly wrong (more on this in the next chapter).
A consequential approach focuses on the end results produced. Did that particular action generate more good than bad? Ethical maxims, formulated within this context, will be phrased in a way that allows for the comparison of benefits (goods) and drawbacks (bad) resulting from the action (e.g., ergogenic aids in sport). Attempting such calculations is a difficult challenge since goodness and badness are not readily amenable to quantification. Estimates can be made of the impact. The action is likely to have on everyone involved in that particular event. This step assists us in calculating the sum total of good and sum total of bad resulting from the incident.
Consideration given to the greatest good for the greatest number serves as a general guide in public policy but that notion is more difficult to apply to individuals. Despite this caveat we can often determine if an event had minimal or major impact. In calculating the sum of goodness and the sum of badness, consideration needs to be given both to quantity and quality; some events have more profound impact than others (this will be discussed further in Chapter 5).
From an existential perspective, the focus is trained on the person as agent with freedom of choice and responsibility, that is, authenticity. Authenticity is a characteristic based upon the concept of congruence — congruence within the person (affective and cognitive domains) and congruence between the person, the person’s actions, and the world. A person is authentic to the degree to which the person’s being in the world is fundamentally in accord with the basis of that person’s own nature and own conception of the world. An authentic person thinks, feels, and acts in a consistent, congruent manner.
Authenticity is a personal matter. Only the person can know the authenticity of his or her own being. To be genuine, honest, congruent, or “real” means to be authentic to oneself. The person is the only one who can know what is going on inside his or her self.
The search for an ethical maxim cannot be conducted in isolation, separate and apart from the incident under scrutiny. Step Two cannot be the exclusive focus of attention; some consideration needs to be given to Step One at the same time.
More than one ethical maxim can be found to serve as the moral yardstick against which we can measure behavior. Invoking more than one ethical maxim promotes a wider-ranging moral discourse. A more comprehensive examination of the behavior/act/incident/event is preferable to a narrower review, since the former produces greater insights and therefore more, rather than less, ethical knowledge.
Step Three: Time
Chronologically we can look to (1) the time before the incident, (2) the time of the incident, and (3) the consequences that resulted because of the incident. In the quest for a comprehensive description of what occurred, i. is usually advantageous to know what prompted the action under examination. That knowledge often helps us to understand the act itself. Knowing precisely, and in detail, what happened when the incident occurred adds to the foundation upon which we conduct moral reasoning. Assessing the consequences helps us to determine the gravity or severity of the situation. As the moral reasoning exercise evolves, knowledge of what happened before the incident, what indeed happened, and the consequences resulting will be considered. All this information helps to satisfy the requirements of Step One in the Model.
In the first period, the time before the action, two factors may be present that demand consideration: motivation and intention. What motivated the action? At times good motives produce bad results and, conversely, evil motives produce good results. Knowledge of the motivation involved, which is not readily or easily attained, is usually a factor considered in moral reasoning. From the individual’s own perspective authenticity is a moral characteristic that applies at all times (i.e., prior to, during, and following the act). Intention, the other factor, can often be discerned from the act itself — but that is not always the case. In the absence of a statement from the agent, there is no alternative other than assessment of the act to impute intention.
This schema can also serve as a very general checklist of factors to consider in an attempt to arrive at a complete description of what occurred.
Step Four: Identify and discuss extenuating or special circumstances
At times special or extenuating circumstances exist that shed light on what occurred. For example, in an 800-meter race the runner in second place stumbles, due to a pothole in the track, just as she is about to pass the leader. This jolt is of sufficient force to cause the leader to lose her balance. Thrown off-balance, the leading runner pauses to right herself and in so doing drops back into second place. Somehow that collision helps the stumbling runner regain her balance and launches her into the lead that she maintains for the rest of the race. The second place finisher lodges a protest as she felt she deserved the gold medal. A pothole in the track, easily discovered only after the incident, represents a special circumstance that needs to be considered when rendering moral judgment.
Another scenario will add to the explanation. Team Alpha arrives at the visitors, dressing room to discover the theft of their soccer sweaters. League rules are strict and firm, requiring teams to dress in uniforms bearing the color and design registered. Without proper dress the team cannot play. In addition, another rule says that games must start on time. The opposing team receives one goal for each five-minute delay. With full knowledge that. a rule violation will occur, the manager of team Alpha requests permission to use the home team’s practice jerseys. She further asks for a 20-minute delay in the start of the game and that no penalty be applied. Here is a special circumstance that merits consideration in moral reasoning.
In Step Four, the facts of the case or incident are further amplified. Circumstances are best identified as extenuating or special after a full basic description of the case has been provided.
Step Five: Render judgment.
This, in one sense, is the culmination of moral reasoning. We should render judgment only after all the facts of the case have been considered and we reach agreement on the ethical maxim(s) applicable.
Once we know as many facts as possible, and consider the special or extenuating circumstances, is it possible to reach a consensus among those involved in that particular moral reasoning exercise. Not always is it possible to decide absolutely in terms of black or white, right or wrong, good or bad. Ethics also comes in shades of grey, that is, qualified judgments that find some right or good and some wrong or bad in a particular act. Reasons given for the judgments rendered serve as warrants to support the decision reached.
Professional practitioners and laypersons utter ethical pronouncements on certain acts that occur within the realm of that specific specialty and in all aspects of life. Too often these judgments are based on inadequate knowledge of moral reasoning and a lack of awareness of the various bases from where ethical maxims can be derived to serve as yardsticks against which behavior is measured. Despite the need for professionals in all fields to be aware of the ethical dimension of their practice, very little attention is paid to this topic in the curriculum that comprises their respective professional education.