Category Archives: Sports Ethics

Roger Clemens testifying at Congressional hearing.

Where Are Our Sports Role Models?

Roger Clemens testifying at Congressional hearing.

There was a time, not too many years ago, when every young sports fan had a favorite player on his or her favorite team. For me, since I grew up in Detroit, in baseball it was Hank Greenberg, and later, Al Kaline of the Tigers. In football, it was Don Hudson, the magnificent wide receiver of the Green Bay Packers, who caught passes with the speed and grace of a gazelle. Later, I greatly admired Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts, whose pinpoint passes and never-say-die attitude won the hearts of fans all over America. In basketball, it was center Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics, and more recently, Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns, and now with the L.A. Lakers.

All of these players had magical abilities that impressed me enough to reach role model status. They were not only Triple-A in talent, they played the game with great integrity.

In the last 25 years, role models in sports have been hard to find. Drug use has become a serious problem in baseball, football, and cycling. In 2012, not a single player was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, partly because several prime candidates used steroids and were unable to even come close to obtaining the 75% required vote. In professional football, there is evidence that some 300-pound linemen obtained that weight via “performance enhancers.” As for the Tour de France, the whole American team, which was lead by Lance Armstrong for years, used illegal drugs and blood enhancers.

This is unfortunate for our children and grandchildren who want to admire their sports idols. Golf is the one sport in America where the players consistently hold their heads high because they are ethical, and play accordingly. The players call penalties on themselves if they violate a rule, even if the penalty cost them a championship and the loss of thousands of dollars. For that, we can all be justly proud.

“World Peace” Misnamed

Metta World Peace, better known as Ron Artest has played professional basketball for twelve years and for a number of different teams. In several of those years, he was suspended for a variety of different violations of basketball rules, plus a number of off-court embarrassing legal issues. His most famous suspension occurred in November 2004 when he charged into the stands to beat up a man who supposedly did something that irritated him. As it turned out, he beat up the wrong man and was suspended for 86 games, the longest suspense in NBA history.

In a playoff game several weeks ago, Artest who is strong as a bull, swung his elbow into the side of the head of James Harden, a star player of the Oklahoma Thunder and then walked away pounding his chest as if to say “I am the King of this Court and will do whatever I decide to do regardless of the consequences.” Harden suffered a concussion and had to leave that game. The next blow could have killed him.

The commissioner of basketball suspended Artest for seven games. He should have been suspended from the league for life! Enough is enough. The NBA does not need a terrorist masquerading as “World Peace.”

Intentionally Injuring Football Players Needs to Stop

In my forthcoming book, Ethical Meltdown, I indicated that the most serious scandal to rock the sports world in the past twelve years was the use of illegal performance enhancers (steroids and other drugs) by players. Today, I am not so sure that was the most serious scandal after learning that some professional football coaches were paying bonuses to their defensive players to intentionally knock opponent players out of the game.

New Orleans defensive coordinator Greg Williams established a bounty system for the last three years that offered $1,500 for a total knockout and $1,000 if the player had to be carried off the field. If the “knockout” or “carry-off” occurred during the playoffs, the awards doubled or tripled in size.

This is exactly what happened to Kurt Warner in 2009 and Brett Favre playing against the New Orleans Saints bounty hunters. Warner’s injury was so serious, he never played another game in the NFL.

Fran Tarkington, an outstanding quarterback in the NFL for eighteen years, argues that Greg Williams should never be seen in the NFL again. But, what about New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis, both of whom know about the bounties but do not stop them? In fairness, the penalties for all three should be the same. In my view, it should be immediate termination and no chance to be rehired in the NFL for at least two years.