I’m squeezed today like fresh orange juice!
I have an early morning ethics seminar in about 90 minutes, so one topic is all I have time for. But it is a good warm-up, reaching an ethics issue—the proper level of punishment for civility breaches in sports— recently discussed here, but with very different factors and ethical considerations involved.
Here and Virginia, many are steaming over the harsh punishment handed down to the victorious Atlee Little League girls’ softball team, which was kicked out of the Junior League World Series, featuring the best 12-to-15-year-old girls teams in the world, only hours before its players were about to take the field on national television. The team’s offense: an unsportsmanlike social media post, taunting its last opponent.
Atlee prevailed in a week long tournament in Kirkland, Washington, culminating in tense 1-0 victory in the semifinal game against the host team. Apparently resentment between the teams ran high, and the game featured a controversy over the Kirkland team stealing signs. (Stealing signs in a girls’ softball game? Wow. I didn’t even think there were signs in girls’ softball!)
After the victory, the carptain of the Atlee team used Snapchat to post a photo of showing six members of the team flipping the Fuck You Finger at the Kirkland team.
The Atlee manager Scott Currie heard about the post and had it deleted. Then he arranged for his team to deliver a formal apology in person to the Kirkland players the same evening. Nonetheless, it was too little, too late. The next morning the head office of the Little League World Series disqualified Atlee from the tournament, and awarded Kirkland the berth in the title game.
The Junior League issued the following statement:
“After discovering a recent inappropriate social media post involving members of Atlee Little League’s Junior League Softball tournament team, the Little League® International Tournament Committee has removed the Southeast Region from the 2017 Junior League Softball World Series for violation of Little League’s policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct, inappropriate use of social media, and the high standard that Little League International holds for all its participants.”
Not surprisingly, supporters of the Atlee team, and the team itself, feel that the punishment is excessive.
1. It’s not. The punishment is certainly tough, but an important part of kids athletic programs is, or should be, educational. This is a terrific lesson to teach, and I will do my part to make certain that the tale is publicized far and wide. It should be taught in schools. It is a perfect cautionary tale.
2. If we are going to fight the political culture’s around the clock efforts to ensure that our rising generation makes us a Nation of Assholes, this is a battle won.
3. Defenders of the Atlee team point out that Kirkland was nasty to their girls. “Tit for Tat” is a rationalization, as is “They had it coming.” Those are neither defenses, nor excuses.
4. The other useful part of the message is “Beware social media.” That one may be the most important of all.
5. Losing a berth in the tournament hurts now, but losing jobs, income, respect and reputations in adulthood will hurt far worse later.
Let’s hope the lesson is learned.