Sports Ethics Scoreboard!

Sports scoreboard

This is All-Star week in baseball, and I’ll be boycotting the game (see below), but this is a good time to note several ethics developments in the Wide, Wide World of Sports:

In cycling: The idiot who caused a massive accident during the Tour de France was identified: she surrendered to authorities right before they were preparing to arrest her. A French prosecutor said that the woman will face trial in October on charges of reckless endangerment and involuntarily causing injuries, but there is still doubt that this will occur. She’s sorry. She’s ashamed. The police have been getting hate emails. All she wanted to do was send “an affectionate message to her grandparents.” Would the woman attracts such sympathy if a couple of the cyclists had been killed because of her stunt? Yet the fact that they were not is pure moral luck.

In pro football: The NFL fined the Washington Football Team, formerly the Redskins before the death of a black man in Minnesota somehow mandated a name change, $10 million last week following  an independent investigation that found the team’s work environment was “highly unprofessional” in its treatment of women. Fifteen former female employees and two journalists who covered the team accused team staffers of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. The attorney who led the investigation, said ownership and senior management “paid little or no attention” to the workplace culture, in some cases, acting inappropriately themselves.  The investigation concluded that franchise owner Dan Snyder was responsible for the club’s unprofessional and intimidating culture, and that he failed to establish a respectful work environment.Yes, the fish rots from the head down.

In the Olympics: African American hammer thrower Gwen Berry announced her intention of using the Tokyo Olympics to protest against the U.S.after turning her back on the flag during preliminaries. It appears the vast majority of Americans don’t sympathize. A I&I/TIPP poll finds that the public overwhelmingly rejects athletes showing disrespect for the American flag at international games, with 79% of the public saying it’s important “for professional athletes to publicly respect the American flag on the international level,” and 60% saying it is “very important.” 16% of the adults surveyed think it’s not important. (Who ARE these people?)


Nearly two-thirds (61%) of blacks surveyed and 69% of Hispanics also don’t want the athletes in Tokyo to engage in political protests.

Also in the Olympics: Team USA in basketball was defeated in its first exhibition game before the Olympics by Nigeria in a 90-87 over the weekend. Good. The Americans had been 54-2 in exhibition games since NBA players started making a travesty of Olympics basketball in 1992, and just nine years ago beat Nigeria by 83 points in the London Olympics. For decades, the U.S complained about pros from Communist countries crushing our amateurs, and then as soon as it could, the U.S. used its overwhelming dominance in pro basketball to do the same to other nations. Yecchh.

In Major League Baseball: As Major League Baseball heads to the All-Star game ( being played in Denver after MLB beclowned itself by pulling it out of Atlanta as a phony virtue-signaling gesture—“voter suppression,” you know), Dodgers pitcher and sportswriter favorite Trevor Bauer is on indefinite “administrative leave” following his ex-girlfriend’s allegations of horrific sexual abuse. Baseball has been cracking down on domestic abuse by players over the last few years; usually, if the player are good enough, “The King’s Pass” eventually takes over and some team pays them millions following the players’ agents drafting the right apologies. We’ll see about Bauer. If the alleged victim’s account is only half true, the pitcher is one sick and dangerous bastard. He might not be taking the mound for a long time, if ever again.

Also in baseball: At this week’s All-Star Game, the National League, once a showcase for black stars, will have just two African-American players, and before replacement players were named, there was only one, Mookie Betts, who later announced that he would not play. Systemic racism? Hardly: baseball is the most diverse of the professional sports, but the number of black players has declined significantly. African American participation in the majors peaked at 19% in 1986, but on opening day 2021 the figure was just 7.6%. Why? Well, it’s not because teams aren’t eager to hire talented black players. The problem is that baseball is more expensive to play than other sports. The cost of equipment (bat, glove, helmet, spikes) is high; the cost of the youth travel and showcase circuit, which is essential for players to be scouted and drafted, is costly, and Division I baseball programs allow only 11.7 scholarships, most of them partial. Men’s basketball teams get 13, and football teams get 85.

29 thoughts on “Sports Ethics Scoreboard!

  1. Maybe we should check in with Michael Jordan on why baseball’s less popular. If you’re a gifted athlete of any color and can play football or basketball or run track, why roll the dice on whether you can hit major league pitching?

    • Baseball IS harder, and as the Times article notes, you can’t start late and have a chance. Ted Williams famously said that hitting a baseball was the most difficult feat in sports, and he was proven right despite lots of protests and objections. I could also makes some controversial statements about how baseball’s culture and its philosophy is not compatible with some other cultures, for example, it is the only team sport that isn’t a “gang” game.

      Another time, perhaps.

      • So why do Afro-Caribbean players dominate? They grow up poorer than the poorest American kids. Beisbal been beddy beddy good to those guys.

          • I think it’s a little less romantic than that. I bet talented kids are picked out by the time they’re seven or eight. Then they’re put into the plantations, er, ahem, academies funded by MLB. American kids would never put up with being entombed, er, enrolled in an institution like those.

            • I think your perspective here is a bit narrow. The academies are an extremely attractive life option in the communities where they exist, even if it is just for a while. Most of those kids will never play a second of major league baseball, they also will never compete on a suburban high school golf team, worry about getting the lead in the school play, or be crushed because their ‘friends’ are torturing them on Instagram.
              They’re not American kids, many come from extreme poverty in marginal countries; those academies represent more than just a dream, they provide tangible, immediate benefit to those kids and their families, at least for a little while.

      • That distinction (team/gang) makes perfect sense, Jack. (Or, maybe I have seen The Untouchables too many times.)

        However, the obvious question would be about Cricket. If there is a distinction to make between that and baseball, I would be curious to hear it.


          • Other Bill,
            I don’t think those distinctions address Jack’s point that Baseball is a team sport that is not a gang sport.

            It is an interesting point, but, like I implied, was explained in The Untouchables by Al Capone (via DeNiro)(The Untouchables being one reason I could never disavow ALL of DeNiro’s movie, ass-hat that he is).

            • Oh, I was thinking of degree of difficulty. What exactly is a gang sport? Is a sport a gang sport if gang members use team gear as colors? I think the Yankees logo is used by some gang, but maybe they’re just from New York? Basketball has long been dominated by urban kids. But football isn’t. Most of the kids are either suburban (or at least attend suburban high schools, see, eg, California or rural, see, eg, the south and the SEC.

              • Other Bill, I infer that a team sport is one involving teams, not golf, tennis, bowling (maybe), etc.

                A “gang” sport, I infer, is one that is essentially the entire team against the other team. Basketball is a game where 5 people are playing against 5 people.

                Same with soccer, football, hockey, volleyball, etc. I think even curling would qualify as a gang sport, even though you gave several defined players (like football).

                Baseball pits a team against a batter. So, it is NOT one gang against another gang.

                I could probably go on and additionally display my marginal knowledge of Cricket, but does that clarify things?

                (Seriously, watch The Untouchables for the scene when Capone beats the guy over the head with a baseball bat—it’s explained right there.)


                • That’s interesting. Hah. I had no idea that’s what “gang” sport meant. I’d say basketball has its individual aspects. There’s no one else there to help you when you put up a shot or grab a rebound.

        • Clearly, Cricket is not a gang sport. It’s also only superficially like baseball (the roots of baseball apparently go to a now seldom-played British game called “rounders”) but since I’ve never watched an entire match, I can’t say much more about it.

            • Which version of cricket are you talking about? A T20 match lasts 3 hours, an ODI lasts 7 hours, and the long version of the game lasts 3 to 5 days.

              • In cricket, teams are encouraged to not go too slow.
                Bowling sides are expected to achieve a minimum over rate. Bowling teams that have failed to achieve the minimum over rate have had points deducted, the players fined, and or the captain suspended for future matches.
                In the just completed 2019–21 ICC World Test Championship, Australia were deducted 4 points for a slow over rate in the second Test against India on 29 December 2020. This ended up resulting in Australia not qualifying for the final, so New Zealand qualified and then beat India in the final.
                Maybe a few sports like baseball could adopt a similar system.

      • That (not a gang sport) is one of the things I loved about playing baseball. The best combo of team and individual.

  2. Another possibility for declining black MLB participation?

    Scholars (Austin Institute’s Joseph Price and Kevin Stuart in their provocatively titled Called Out At Home) Find A CORRELATION Between Playing The Sport And Growing Up With A Father At Home.

    (bolds/CAPS/italics mine throughout)
    Stuart: “What was curious to the research team at the Austin Institute about THE TIMING OF THE DECLINE, too neat to be coincidence we thought, was that IT BEGAN ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO AFTER A SHARP RISE IN OUT-OF-WEDLOCK CHILDBIRTHS.

    Our intrepid researchers concluded that there is indeed a ‘connection between having a father in the home during childhood and going on to become a professional baseball player.’

    The monumentally insufferable Bryant Gumbel did a Real Sports piece which supported this contention a while back, but I couldn’t pull it up.

  3. Re the Olympics poll: “Who ARE these people?”
    Even more odd, who are the 5% who are “not sure”? Talk about apathy!

  4. Also sports:
    Italy defeated England on the latter’s home turf last night in the final of the Euro Cup soccer tournament. The match was still tied even after a half hour of extra time, so it went to penalty kicks. Two of the three English players who missed their “penos” were brought on with only a couple of minutes remaining in extra time, apparently for the express purpose of taking the penalty kicks. But neither had time to really get into the flow of the game. The last English player to attempt a penalty, Bukayo Saka, is only 19; that’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid.
    Marcus Rashford, the first to miss for England, committed the unpardonable sin of penalty kicks: his shot hit the post and bounced away. Speaking as a former goalkeeper: sometimes we make a great save, but you help us a whole lot if you just miss the target.
    So: three things about the event.
    1. The night before the final, drunken English fans totally trashed Leicester Square, throwing bottles and leaving literally tons of rubbish behind. Local businesses there have been especially hard-hit over the last 16 months with the shuttering of the theatres in the area. They certainly didn’t need a few thousand yahoos adding to their misery.
    2. The three English players who missed their penalty shots have all been subjected to a lot of abuse on social media, some of it threatening violence, and a significant amount of it explicitly racist. One defender of Rashford, in particular, pointed out that the young man has impeccable humanitarian credentials, donating literally millions of pounds to “feed hungry children the government was willing to let starve” during the pandemic. The description of the young man’s generosity is no doubt true, but what intrigues me is the need to defend him in those terms. Surely anyone in a similar situation would feel awful at his own failure, and believes he let his country down. Would such a player not deserve to be spared threats of racist violence if he were just an average guy in moral/ethical terms instead of a real benefactor?
    3. Literally thousands of unticketed fans stormed into the stadium shortly before the start of the game, thereby exceeding the government’s mandate for maximum attendance. Whether the attendance should have been limited is a different issue; surely, with tickets selling online for close to £2000 apiece, these people surely knew before they left home that the only way they’d get inside inside was to break the law, which is [checks notes] illegal! They clogged aisles, stood in the handicap section (blocking the view of ticket-holders), and generally caused a major disturbance. Near the end of the game, idiot ESPN announcer (apologies for redundancy) chuckles about the fact that the number of people in the stadium obviously exceeds COVID guidelines, and says something to the effect of “who can blame them?” Well, me, for one.

    • My favorite aspect of US interest in the Copa de America and the European Championship (brought to you be that wonderful outfit, FIFA) and, of course, FIFA’s (there they are again, those rascals) World Cup is that other nations around the world are free to be … wait for it … rabidly, insanely, absurdly NATIONALISTIC while rooting for their national teams. And all the earnest lefty, yuppie, woke American soccer fans think it’s … adorable. But here in the U.S, any affection shown for the U.S. is violence, nascent fascism and, of course, white supremacy. How can these people be so lacking in self-reflection?

      Penalties are a terrible, verging on unethical, way to finish draws. They almost undermine the legitimacy of international competitions. Too many of the teams seem to have been more than happy to play rope-a-dope in order to get into a shoot out rather than trying to actually win the game either at the end of regulation or during extra time. Not very sporting. But international soccer is really the equivalent of an NBA or MLB or NFL all star game. Just a showcase for each nation’s big stars. The teams are largely pick-up teams assembled and run out onto the field during breaks in the regular, club season. But FIFA and the other shabby organizers make a LOT of money.

      Two words about the English fans’ behavior: soccer and hoodlums. They’re BAAACK. And they’ve never been far out of sight.

  5. Re: Washington WTF team.

    From Sally Jenkins’ 7/01 column:

    “The so-called investigative report on the nasty skirt-clutching culture inside the Washington Football Team has vanished like invisible ink. And somehow the NFL thinks it can make it all right by handing Tanya Snyder the mop and broom. Great. That’s the perfect NFL solution, isn’t it? Just to turn to the wife and say: “Here. You clean it up.” ‘

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