Skewed vision: The False Ethics That Are Prevalent American Athletics
Every morning, I get up at seven o’clock and turn on my television so I can watch Sports Center. From time to time, there is a report about a college coach that called a press conference to comment on either the actions of one of the members of his team (coach included), or the actions of the program which he is a part of. I intentionally say he, because I have never seen a coach of a female program called on to defend his/her actions. The funny thing is, that after these coaches make the claims that they have no idea how this incident happened, they are called on again in a few years to make the same speech about another incident. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a problem with athletics in America. Either there is something wrong with the individual athletic programs, or there is something wrong with the body that governs those programs. Many people believe, including me, that the problem is not with the programs, but with the bodies that govern them. The problem that persist, is the fact that major organizations such as the NCAA, NBA, NFL, or NHL, are more concerned with the money that the athletes generate than with the moral standards that all of these groups promise to uphold.
The simple truth is that these standards pale in comparison to the almighty dollar. In division three athletics, money is not an issue, you play for the love of the game and that’s all. No scholarships, not much press, and a slim chance of playing on any higher level. Once you reach the level of division two though, those high standards that are preached to all high school students begin to lose there meaning. A coach fighting to keep his/her job might try anything to win. How many movies have been made about the illegal practices of college coaches and “friends” of the programs? How many times have we heard about a gifted athlete who can barley read? If the public knows about it, how come the NCAA, the group sworn to uphold their own moral standards, doesn’t. How is it that a coach, who is fired for breaking the rules that the NCAA has set up, can go to another school and do the exact same things, and not get caught? The answer is simple, the NCAA would lose money by forcing its members to follow the rules, so they look the other way until the infractions are so blatant that they have to take action. Do the punishments fit the crimes though?
Who is punished if a student is caught taking gifts from an unauthorized person? Not the individual, who knows that by giving the gift, he could ruin a kid’s career. They get a slap on the wrist and told to stop it. How about the college who was fully aware of the contact between the known sports agent and the star player on the basketball team? Does the agent loose his/her licenses? Is the school penalized for allowing inappropriate contact to be made? The answer is a resounding no. The ones who are punished are the student athletes. Even when schools are punished for bending the rules, the punishment is nothing more than a slap on the wrist. The program responsible for the wrongdoing might be suspended from tournament play for a few years, and barred from playing nationally televised games. The program will recover and the school most likely has not lost all of its revenue from competitive athletics.
The students, on the other hand, are immediately suspended from their respective teams, and in most cases, eventually lose their scholarships and possibly their only chance at getting a higher education. In the event that the athlete is on the verge of making it to the pros, being dismissed from their college team could hurt the athlete’s stock. If the NCAA were truly concerned about keeping a clean athletic coalition, then the penalties would be harsher, and would affect the schools more than they affect the students. Or perhaps the NCAA could find a way to penalize the agents that knowingly contact students who have potential to go pro.
The fact of the matter is that morality comes second to money in most cases. Unfortunately, athletics is no different. If this fact were not true, how many of our sports hero’s would even be known by the public? The Dallas Mavericks (a professional basketball team) signed Denis Rodman to a short-term contract, not because he was a great rebounder, but because he was sure to draw larger home crowds. Even when Rodman became disruptive to the team and had been suspended, management kept him on the pay role because of increased revenues. Rodman was eventually released from the team when he was costing the team more than he was making. Lattreal Sprewell choked his coach, and instead of being banned from the league for that type of violence, was re-instated a year later for a different team where he could make more money for the NBA.
The NHL (National Hockey League) is the professional sports league that stands out as having the largest morality debt. Representatives from the league are on television often, talking about the sportsmanship in the game of hockey, but consider fighting part of the sport. Twice this year, players have hit opponents with their sticks. Though the players were both suspended, there has been no move to stop things like this from happening. By encouraging fighting by it’s players, the NHL has given the audience what it wants, and forced players to resort to dirtier practices to protect themselves.
I truly believe that after high school, morality in sport becomes a crutch used when it is in the best interest of the program. From the Pro’s to the amateur level, coaches bend the rules as much as possible and as long as it’s not too blatant, the governing bodies look the other way. Division three and high school athletics are different from the other levels of play, because there is no incentive other than the game. Morality is simply an ends to a means when money is involved, and money, as always is king.