The Sport of Corruption: Ethical Integrity Disappearing In Sports

Rashad Muhammad, Staff Writer

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April 1 is supposed to be a day of pranks, mischief, and practical jokes. This past April Fools’ Day, the joke was on the University of Arkansas.

Arkansas Razorbacks head coach, Bobby Petrino, is married to Becky Petrino and has four children. On April 1, the public became aware that he had forgotten his nuptial vows and fatherly duties when he was found guilty of “inappropriate behavior” with a woman less than half his age.

Petrino is no stranger to unethical behavior but his latest scandal has so far taken center stage and has overshadowed all of his earlier transgressions. Following this scandal many sports analysts and columnists debated over the issue of Petrino’s status as head coach. Some have said his unscrupulous behavior was a firing offense, but many believed, because of his coaching prowess and history, that he would receive a slap on the wrist.

The University of Arkansas football program has recently seen a constructive overhaul, thanks to Petrino. Many view him as one of the best coaches in the business.

The question that was brought up in the Petrino debate was “Why does morality seem to take a back to seat in the vehicle of sports?”

We’ve seen it many times before when athletes and coaches are caught in scandals only to come out of the mud untarnished.

People seemed to be uninterested when Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault because of the three NBA championships he won before the summer of 2003. They also continue to ignore the persistent use of steroids in baseball as long as home runs are the outcome.

Tiger Woods took a break from golf after it went public that he cheated on his wife with dozens of women throughout their marriage. Instead of booing him at tournaments or vilifying him for his misconduct, people welcomed him back with open arms because he made the game of golf interesting again.

In the case of Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky, many believe his vile actions in molesting children were overlooked for so long because he was one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation.

These men may have had different upbringings or backgrounds, but one thing that remains constant is that they were viewed as top-notch in their respective fields. Because of this, most of their actions, with the exception of Sandusky, were overlooked as long as they are making putts or shooting game-winning shots.

When it all boils down, these men received recognition by winning, and winning equates to capital. Bottom line, they made money for their respective agencies, universities, and franchises. By doing so, their exhibitions of moral ineptitude didn’t seem to matter much.

Radim Bures believes this to be true.

Bures is a project manager for Transparency International (TI), a non-governmental organization that counters social, political, and economic corruption.

“Sports represent a complicated social structure. This structure goes from harmonic development of body and soul through strong social and community bonds to a powerful economic force,” Bures said on the organization’s website.

In school-related sports, athletes and coaches are usually held to higher ethical standards, mainly because not much money is involved. But when sports events are televised or produce a certain amount of revenue, this is not the case.

You can drive drunk and kill a car full of people, but as long as you score touchdowns on Sundays, people will overlook it. If you cheat on your wife for 10 years but you have a few championship rings, who cares? Apparently society doesn’t.

Maybe it’s too presumptuous to hold these athletes to such lofty standards, but these public figures should be aware of their collective prominence. They are revered and viewed as role models for children and young adults. Regardless of age, people mold themselves in the images of these well-known individuals whether that image is seen in a positive or negative light.

With the millions of dollars thrown at these athletes, is it too much to ask that they show some level of etiquette, decorum, or personal responsibility?

No one is asking that these people become disciples of Timothy Richard Tebow, but is a little effort too much to ask for? Or maybe it is. Maybe people should just face the fact that sports figures are not parents to every child around the world.

Whose measuring stick are we using to effectively evaluate these people anyway? What system of morality are we using?

A founder of Western philosophy, Socrates preached about systems and models from a moral perspective. He believed that there was no way to base a society purely on moral standards because they were subjective.

He said that a system of morality based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception that has “nothing sound in it and nothing true”.

So I ask, is this really the case? Are ethics in sports not as objective as they seem? If so, how do we judge these sports figures in a way that truly reflects their character? And in the realm of sports, do ethics and morality really matter, or are coaches and athletes purely measured by wins and losses?

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