Sports and Ethics Go Hand-in-Hand

For someone who’s life has essentially revolved around sports, this is finally a prompt that I’m interested in writing. I rowed for just two years before college, but have competed in both the lightweight (130.0 lbs maximum) and openweight categories while at Bucknell. More importantly, I’ve been involved in hockey as a player since I could walk, as a referee for the last six years, and now as an intern for the Hershey Bears in the AHL. So to say I’ve seen my fair share of ethics play out in sports is an understatement.

The NCAA very actively attempts to ensure ethical behavior, especially in recruiting and compliance. Their entire process is a hassle for the 99% (figuratively) of athletes that report honest test scores, medical history, amateur status, and drug (non)use. Most student-athletes don’t even understand what the NCAA actually does, but we all just go to the meetings, sign the papers, and try not to get caught doing anything stupid that would cause an investigation. Although the NCAA is far from an exemplary organization itself (read about the NCAA’s Ethics Problem according to the New York Times), it does encourage ethical behavior from its athletes and coaches as stated in their operating bylaws. How well these rules are actually followed and how well they can be monitored is whole other story, but in general the NCAA imposes some ethical boundaries that promote fair competition and sportsmanship but it is up to individuals to actually make the ethical decisions. Although I have never had to verify practice hours, I know of coaches that do exceed the allowable weekly hours and put their players in a difficult ethical position when they are asked to confirm team compliance.

As a referee, I run through more ethical questions in my head in one game than I would otherwise in a year. Continue reading