Category Archives: Sports

From “The Ethics Incompleteness Principle” Files: Anomalies And The Boston Red Sox Uniform Number Retirement Standards

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle argues that no rule works in all circumstances, so you have to be alert to when making exceptions is appropriate. The concept is illustrated by how the Boston Red Sox retire uniform numbers.

I will explain…

Major League Baseball teams retire the uniform numbers of players who they want to honor in perpetuity. The number is displayed somewhere in the ballpark, and no player on that team can ever wear it again.

Doing this requires standards, however, or else the honor becomes diluted and the retired numbers include those that seem increasingly strange and arbitrary as time goes by. The New York Yankees have retired so many uniform numbers that no single digit will ever again grace the back of a Yankee star. Moreover, several of the individuals who sanctified those numbers include players who never were and never will be called “great,” like Bernie Williams, who led the league in exactly one category, once, in his entire career, and whose Similarity Score index contains all very good but not great outfielders, the most similar being Paul O’Neil, a former Yankee star whose uniform is not retired. Another retired Yankee uniform number is that of Roger Maris, who only played for the Yankees for six years, many of them unremarkable. Having one’s uniform retired in the Bronx along with those of Babe, Lou, Mickey and Joe appears to mean “Somebody in charge really liked him.”

Well, at least that’s a standard that is easy to maintain.

The Boston Red Sox, in contrast, were not going to have a retired uniform glut. The franchise established an iron set of criteria for the honor, with three prongs:

1. The player must be an inarguable Red Sox great who played at least 10 years with the team.

2. The player must be an elected member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

3. The player must retire as a member of the Red Sox.

Today the Red Sox are retiring the number of David Ortiz, who retired himself at the end of last season. While he might well be voted into the Hall of Fame, he may not, for complex and controversial reasons. The Red Sox, who could reasonably argue that Ortiz has been the most popular and important player in the team’s history (though Ted Williams was the best) rightly concluded that to delegate to the  Hall of Fame voters the determination of whether Ortiz’s #34 would be retired with lesser Boston heroes made no sense. Thus his uniform number will momentarily obliterate that second prong, which had already been waived once. In that case, the beneficiary was Johnny Pesky, a classic anomaly and line-blurrer. Continue reading

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The Supreme Court Rules Against Government-Enforced Political Correctness

The Supreme Court affirmed today that a Trademark law’s restriction on registration of disparaging marks violates the free speech guarantees of the US Constitution. In the case of Matal v. Tam, the Court (as Ethics Alarms predicted over a year ago) ruled that the government cannot legally  deny a trademark to companies or other applicants solely on the basis of the name being regarded as “offensive.”

Good.

The case concerned  an Asian-American band called The Slants, but the decision effectively settles the Washington Redskins’ fight to retain the trademark on its nickname. Harry Reid, also engaging in unconstitutional infringement of free speech, had his Democrats in the Senate send a threatening letter to team owner Dan Snyder, while the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), taking its cues from the Obama Administration theme that race and victim-mongering  trumps basic rights, ruled that the Washington NFL team’s name was “disparaging to Native Americans,” and cancelled six of its federal trademark registrations. The team appealed that verdict, and team owner Dan Snyder has vowed not to cave to illegal bullying from the government.

Thanks to the ruling—did I mention that it was unanimous?—the PTO will begin allowing registration of disparaging marks and will not cancel Registered marks because they are disparaging.

The last time I addressed this issue, in December of 2015, I wrote,

“I would like to see Snyder fight off the unethical government speech bullies, foil the political correctness hordes, and then, after he hasn’t heard a peep about team for a couple of years quietly change the anachronistic team name on his own volition. It’s time. The message sent by capitulating to the activists trying to force him to change, however, would be the same dangerous message sent by today’s college administrators, which is that a claim of offense doesn’t have to be reasonable to effectively muzzle speech, just persistent.”

I also wrote, somewhat more passionately ,in an earlier post, Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/10/17

 

1. In the category of “Good!”, or maybe “Better late than never!” was the news that CNN, after a a full week of pondering, determined that maybe it wasn’t sufficiently professional for a host to call the President of the United States a “piece of shit,” or anyone a “piece of shit,” really, or use “shit”  under the CNN banner, so it fired “Believer” host Reza Aslan. I don’t know why CNN can’t figure out that an immediate firing sends the message that the organization has professional standards and enforces them, and the way CNN handled this says, “We were hoping this would blow over, but guess not.”

Aslan’s tweet after his hook raised other questions:

  • Wait, CNN is trying to be an unbiased new outlet???
  • Oh, is “piece of shit” how scholars express themselves now?
  • “I need to honor my voice” by being able to use vulgarity to express his measured views. Got it.
  • The “tenor” of discourse is entirely within the control of the speaker.
  • Why does CNN put people on the air who don’t understand or respect their professional obligations to the network or the audience?

2. Fox News’s Sean Hannity got web headlines yesterday by tweeting to Aslan: “I do not think you should be fired. You apologized.” Sean Hannity is really too dumb to be allowed out without a leash. His theory is that an apology magically returns everything to where it was before the conduct in question, as if there were no effects. This was serious breach of professionalism and responsibility showing the Aslan was too untrustworthy to be allowed to have his own TV show. It proved that he was a threat to CNN’s reputation (Crude News Network” is the current successor to “Clinton News Network,” and no organization can function if its announced policy is “Go ahead, do anything; as long as you apologize, your job is safe.” Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Scott Steffel

Only 8 players in Major League Baseball history had hit 600 home runs, and last weekend the number became 9 as Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols reached the impressive milestone with a grand slam in the fourth inning of the June 3 game in Anaheim. Cal State Fullerton student Scott Steffel, a 23-year-old lifelong Angels fan, caught the ball in his glove. Such a souvenir is a collector’s dream, and catching it a baseball fan’s once-in-a-lifetime dream-come-true.

Yet Scott Steffel gave the ball back to Albert Pujols, the man who hit it. He didn’t ask for money or a truck-load of autographed bats and gloves.   He didn’t think about how much money Pujols had )millions and millions) and that the ball was figuratively made of gold. He just gave it back, saying that he didn’t feel it belonged to him, but Pujols:

“It’s not my ball, it’s his. He deserves it. He’s one of the best baseball players right now. Of all time.”

Bravo.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/8/17

[I have been pondering doing this for some time now. Literally every day there are issues and stories that arise that are either too minor for a full post, or crowded out by other issues. Often I never get to them. Also my various issue scouts (especially Fred) have been burying me with excellent candidates for discussion and analysis, and I never get to most of them, frustrating all of us. So I am going to see if I can begin every day with a set of short notes about these topics, reserving the right to expand some of them into full posts later.]

1. Stacy Lockett, a teacher at Anthony Aguirre Junior High, has been fired after she gave out facetious awards to students such as “Most likely to become a terrorist” and “Most likely to blend in with white people.” Good, I think. These are too sensitive issues to expect middle-schoolers to laugh at, and the ‘awards”  show terrible judgment. Still, I am thinking back to comments made in class by some of my favorite 7th and 8th grade teachers, some targeting me. I thought they were funny, and the teachers knew I would think so. All of them would have been fired today, according to the Lockett Standard (Pointer from Fred)

2. By not disciplining Reza Aslan, the host of its “Believer” program who called President Trump a “piece of shit,” “an embarrassment to humankind” and a “man-baby” CNN has made it clear that it has abandoned any vestiges of professionalism or regard for journalism ethics. Well, perhaps “even more clear” is more accurate. CNN allowed Carol Costello to gleefully mock Bristol Palin for getting emotional over being battered; it has allowed Don Lemon to get smashed on the air two New Year’s Eves in a row, and shrugged off Anderson Cooper speculating about the President taking “a dump on his desk,” to give just three examples. Its excuse for Aslan was especially weird, claiming in a statement that he was a host but not an employee. Aslan apologized, but it was a dishonest apology, claiming that the tweets were impulsive and “not like me,” but in another tweet on May 9, he wrote,

“Oh the joy when this lying conniving scumbag narcissistic sociopath piece of shit fake president finally gets what’s coming to him.”

It’s sad to see what CNN has become since Trump’s election. I am embarrassed for the network. but more than that, I am in sorrow for the public. It is not being served by this kind of amateurish, biased and unprofessional journalism.

3. I finally decided that this law suit was too stupid to write about: a ridiculous woman named Holly O’Reilly has found some lawyers—not just any lawyers, either, but the First Amendment Institute at Columbia University—-willing to file a lawsuit claiming that President Trump cannot block her on his Twitter account because doing so is a First Amendment violation of her rights of free speech. The institute’s executive director, Jameel Jaffer, said in a statement that Mr. Trump did not have a right to exclude his critics from engaging with his posts. Does anyone think this is anything but nonsense? Anyone but the New York Times, that is, which wrote, ” The request raises novel legal issues stemming from Mr. Trump’s use of his Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, to make statements about public policy,” and the Washington Post, which published the woman’s silly  op-ed .

When did “novel” come to mean “absurd”? The President blocking a Twitter user on the social media platform isn’t “government action” any more than not taking her phone calls or not reading her letters. She can still say anything she wants on Twitter. Next she’ll sue because she isn’t allowed to ask question at White House press briefings. Columbia University should be embarrassed, but when the anti-Trump  hate virus melts your brain, embarrassment is often the first casualty. Continue reading

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The Miami Marlins Are Selling Fake Memories

 Through June 3, 2017, there have been 296 no-hitters officially recognized by Major League Baseball, 252 of them in the modern era starting in 1901. Seeing one in person is a joy and a treat for any baseball fan, and even the close-but-no cigar games are memorable, as every out, every great play and every batter creates excitement, anticipation, and dread. No sport has anything like no-hitters. 

On that June 3 date, four days ago, Edinson Volquez tossed the first no-no ( as they are colloquially called) this season, and the sixth no-hitter in Miami Marlins history,  defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was an unusual version of the breed because Volquez, a journeyman starter, had two baserunners who reached on walks and saw them erased by double plays. He needed only 98 pitches  to complete the masterpiece.

This comes at a good time for the sad-sack Marlins, who have attendance problems, trust issues (the team twice dismantled a championship team to save money), bad luck (rising superstar pitching ace Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident at the end of last season), hero problems (Fernandez was driving the boat,  he was drunk and on coke, and he killed two of his friends) and ownership uncertainty, for the team is for sale.

A friend living in Florida writes,

“The Miami Marlins selling tickets to a game that’s already been played? I suppose so you can frame them and claim you were at the no-hitter a Marlins’ pitcher threw on June 3rd. From the email they sent me, since I live in Florida and do attend three or four Marlins games a season:

“For those of you who missed attending the game but want to own a souvenir piece of history, unsold tickets from the game are still available by clicking here. Online purchases will be printed and mailed. Fans can also purchase tickets in-person at the Marlins Park Ticket Office.”

Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Martina Navratilova’s “Open Letter”

Court the tennis icon (right); Court the anti-gay rights advocate (left)

Martina Navratilova, the 18-time tennis Grand Slam champion, wrote an “open letter”  to the Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park (Do arenas read letters? I did not know that!) as the Australian Open, always played there, looms in January. Navratilova, a feminist and gay rights activists, argued for removing Court’s name from the venue, despite her undeniable status as a ground-breaking female tennis star, because of Court’s recent statements  hostile to gay marriage, lesbians, and the transgendered.

In the letter, which is as diplomatic and mild as such a letter could possibly be (and Martina has always been an excellent writer), Navratilova says that her position is not based on Court’s “headline-grabbing comments in 1990 when she said I was a bad role model because I was a lesbian.” However, Navratilova focused on Court’s “statements she made in the ’70s about apartheid in South Africa,” in which she opined that ” South Africa dealt with the “situation” (meaning people of colour) much better than anywhere else in the world, particularly the US,”  and, more recently, her anti-gay, anti-trans positions. The 74-year-old  Court had said she would boycott Qantas airline “where possible” in response to its support of same-sex marriage, saying, “I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible.” This week, interviewed on  a Christian radio station, Court said “tennis is full of lesbians” and that older players lure younger ones into gay sex. Court also said that transgender children are the work of “the devil.”

Concludes Martina’s open letter to the arena:

It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights (note to Court: we are human beings, too). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere….How much blood will be on Margaret’s hands because kids will continue to get beaten for being different? This is not OK. Too many will die by suicide because of this kind of intolerance, this kind of bashing and yes, this kind of bullying. This is not OK.

We celebrate free speech, but that doesn’t mean it is free of consequences – not punishment, but consequences. We should not be celebrating this kind of behaviour, this kind of philosophy. The platform people like Margaret Court use needs to be made smaller, not bigger.

Which is why I think it’s time to change your name.

This is as well-argued a case for one side of the issue as anyone could make.

Here’s the other side: Margaret Court’s name was placed on the arena because she was a great tennis player and a pioneer in her sport, not to honor her political and social views. She still was a great tennis player. That hasn’t changed.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Do Margaret Court’s political views and anti-LGTBQ statements create an ethical obligation to remove her name from Margaret Court Arena?

Continue reading

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