I skipped this ten-minute controversy from last month, but I think it was worth mentioning from several ethics angles, so consider this catch-up.
Rangers fans Sean Leonard and Shannon Moore were at a Texas Rangers-Yankee game a few weeks ago when a game ball was tossed into the stands by Texas’s Mitch Moreland. They caught it and gleefully posed for the TV cameras, which also caught a three-year old boy crying hysterically next to them. Immediately, the couple was vilified far and wide, on TV, in blogs and on radio talk shows ( Business Insider called them “The Monsters Who Made A Little Boy Cry”) for taking the ball and not giving it to the child. The main accuser who sparked all this hatred was Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay, who told his radio audience that the couple was taunting the unhappy boy.
Outrageous, all right, but Kay, not the couple. Kay’s description of what occurred was speculative and even fanciful, and for other commentators to commence vilifying the two fans without knowing anything about them, or even why the child was crying, was frighteningly unfair, irresponsible and cruel. Yes, you too can be caught on camera and turned into a national punching bag! Later, we discovered that….
- The kid was crying before the balls was tossed.
- He almost certainly had no idea what was going on
- Leonard and Moore have seven children of their own.
What utter monsters, to choose to give their treasure to one of their own children, rather than to the caterwauling child of a stranger!
The couple told reporters that they were not even aware of the kid in the heat of the moment, which seems plausible to me, not that any explanation or excuse is needed. We have seen other Rangers fans plunge to their death in the heat of similar moments, ignoring life, limb and gravity. If Leonard and Moore had chosen to give the ball to the tyke, good for them, though frankly, considering the age of the child, I think it would have been a wasted kindness. They certainly had no obligation to do so. The ethics lesson of the episode isn’t “Be nice to kids” or “Always give away your baseball to the youngest person in the vicinity,” but rather “Don’t paint a giant target on the backs of people because you think would have handled a situation differently than they did when you don’t even know what the real situation was.”
And yes, I know that I need to practice that lesson myself, having fallen into the Michael Kay trap on occasion.
The episode did provoke some valuable ethics discussion, including this piece, by Sam Miller, about the calculations that should go into an adult’s decision regarding whether to give a baseball to a child at the ballpark. His reflections, however, have little to do with these adults, this child, and that ball.
Pointer: Bob Kenney (Thanks, Bob.)
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