Are athletes less ethical?

It depends. If you compare them to politicians then….

I love to get new points of view. It makes me break out of my biases and allows me to walk around my beliefs and see them from another angle. It is a great exercise even if the view is contrary to a core belief you have held onto for as long as you can remember. Even if I don’t buy it, it is good to give it credence. My thanks to Scott at Recreational Reading for pointing this study out to me.

Before I get at the title question, let me briefly state my beliefs. I think sports are great. Team sports even better. Aside from the physical benefits of being in shape, I think they teach kids life lessons in sportsmanship, winning and losing with grace, teamwork, and fair play.

Now, a study from the University of Idaho has me walking around to the other side of sports. Does it also teach unethical behavior? The study lays out results of a study that athletes “moral reasoning” skills erode from competition.

To briefly summarize, your son catches a pass in football and is running for the winning touchdown and accidental steps out of bounds. He knows it, the coach knows it, the whole team knows it. The official missed the call. Now, if your son keeps quiet, you win. If he admits it to the official, you lose. What would you tell him?

Most said that it is not their job to admit the violation. If they admit then they are at a disadvantage since the other guys will most certainly keep their mouths shut. No one feels honor bound to fess up.

The study concludes that that philosophy carries over into the rest of your life. The philosophy of “It isn’t wrong unless you get caught” becomes commonplace as the moral reasoning declines. That’s a big leap that I’m not ready to take.

For every blind eye, I have seen at least as many acts of pure sportsmanship. Wherever you are on the issue, It is worthy of a walk around for a look at the other side. At the end of the day, you can feel more comfortable in your beliefs.

I thought it was worth discussion in the wake of all that has gone on this year.


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