Ethics Dunce: Yahoo! Sportswriter Shalise Manza Young

Naomi-Osaka interview

The withdrawal of female tennis star Naomi Osaka from the French Open because she wasn’t allowed to ignore rules all the other players were forced to play by has inspired a revealing amount of criticism…of the concept that stars should have to abide by the same rules and laws as everybody else. Since this is a massive ethics blind spot that defies persuasive advocacy, I’ve been somewhat surprised that so many commentators and athletes have been willing to put such an unethical position in print.

I shouldn’t have been, I guess. Osaka (predictably) played the victim, suddenly revealed that she suffered from depression (the old reliable “I’m not bad, I’m sick!” ploy satirized in “Officer Krupke”), and she had the triple benefit of being Asian, Black and female, the “Get Out Of Accountability Free” hat trick (that’s hockey, but you get the point) in the Age of The Great Stupid.

I was originally going to dedicate this post to the fatuous commentary of New York Times columnist Kurt Streeter, to whom all sports is about race, on l’affaire Osaka. “Using social media posts, first last Wednesday then on Monday, Osaka called out one of the most traditional practices in major sports: the obligatory news conference, vital to reporters seeking insight for their stories, but long regarded by many elite athletes as a plank walk. After monumental wins and difficult losses, Osaka has giggled and reflected through news conferences and also dissolved into tears. In Paris, she said she wanted nothing to do with the gatherings because they had exacted a steep emotional toll,” he wrote. “She sent a message with significant weight: The days of the Grand Slam tournaments and the huge media machine behind them holding all of the clout are done. In a predominantly white, ritual-bound sport, a smoothstroking young woman of Black and Asian descent, her confidence still evolving on and off the court, holds the power. Get used to it.”

Get used to what? Star athletes (and politicians, and other celebrities) thinking that if they are successful enough and popular enough, they get to break rules and get away with it? We’re used to that. But the point is that she doesn’t have the power. Tennis authorities fining her and threatening to kick her out of upcoming tournaments proved it. So she threw a tantrum, quit, took her ball and went home, and that’s admirable to Streeter, or anyone else? Well, but, you see, “it is impossible to know the depth of Osaka’s internal anguish” as “the rare champion of color in a tennis world dominated by fans, officials and a press corps that is overwhelmingly white.” Oh, gag me with a spoon. I’d be willing to suffer a lot of internal anguish in an enterprise I could make over 50 million dollars in a year, as Osaka has. Who wouldn’t?

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Ethics Observations On The Naomi Osaka Affair [Corrected]

Osaka2

On Ethics Alarms yesterday, the controversy involving the current top female pro tennis star, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, was relegated to the morning warm-up rather than a stand-alone post. If you were not following EA yesterday, here’s a quick summary:

Citing her annoyance with repetitious questions from the news media that undermined her confidence, the 23-year old announced that she would violate the 2021 official Grand Slam rulebook, which requires players to participate in post-match news conferences. Violations result in fines of up to $20,000, but since Osaka made over 55 million dollars last year alone, more than all but the most elite U.S. professional athletes, this fine would be like a late fee at the library to normal people. I wrote in part,

This is literally an example of a star announcing that rules are for lesser mortals. Verdict: Ethics Dunce. The reason Osaka makes so much money is that athletes are paid heroes and entertainers, and submitting to the idiocy of reporters is part of their job. Fines obviously aren’t enough: a tennis player who refuses to fulfill her obligations to the sport should be banned from competing until she does.

Yesterday, after winning her first round match at the French Open, Osaka was fined (but only $15,000), and tennis officials proved that they read Ethics Alarms (I jest) and told Osaka that continuing her boycott of the media would result in her being suspended from the current tournament and others. Good. The organization had no other choice, unless it wanted to directly endorse the King’s Pass (Rationalization #11). If Osaka was allowed to snub the media with minimal consequences (for her), then no other player would feel obligated to cooperate either. Rennae Stubbs, a former player who is now a coach and ESPN analyst, stated the obvious while most of the players and former players were expressing sympathy for Osaka: “You cannot allow a player to have an unfair advantage by not doing post-match press. It’s time consuming, so if one player is not doing that and others are, that is not equal.”

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So I Guess I Have To Comment On Meghan And Harry’s Oprah Interview

meghan_markle_diana

No, of course I didn’t watch the damn thing. There have been few instances when a Kaufmann was more obvious. But Americans remain inexplicably fascinated by Great Britain’s Royals; the New York Times, which spent weeks ignoring a rape accusation by a former Joe Biden staffer against its favorite Presidential candidate during the campaign, had multiple reporters doing minute by minute updates on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview. HLN yesterday morning brought on a body language expert to analyze what the self-absorbed pair really thought, which is the point at which I turned the channel to an old episode of “Diagnosis Murder.” But at least there were plenty of detailed accounts of what was said that could be absorbed in a lot less than two hours.

Piers Morgan, a loyal Brit with a low tolerance for celebrity grandstanding, penned a vicious (but fair) take on the interview, focusing most of his contempt on the claim made by Meghan that a member of the Royal Family had asked how dark her baby would be, and the couple’s allegation that the Windsors decided to prevent her son Archie from being an official Prince because of his partial black heritage. In neither case were any names mentioned, making the statements the most unethical and dastardly accusations imaginable. They can’t be checked or confirmed, and they cast suspicion on an entire family. Writes Morgan, “[H]aving having let off the racism bomb, the Sussexes won’t say any more. I find that cowardly.”

That’s because it is cowardly.

Regarding Archie’s status, Morgan says,

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Saturday Morning Ethics Update, 2/6/21: Day Before The Super Bowl Edition

CTE brain

This was a Friday morning warm-up that kept getting bumped, with my investigation of the TIME article that dropped yesterday finally bumping it all the way to now. As several have noted in the comments to that post, when real conspiracies rear their dark and slimy heads, it makes suspicion of other conspiracies not just more likely, but reasonable. In my case, for example, as Big Tech has joined social media in squashing news and opinions unpalatable to our rising progressive masters, Ethics Alarms, for no reason that I can see, is suffering through its worst non-holiday week in traffic in years. Meanwhile, I am suddenly getting email after email telling me that my blog isn’t turning up in Google searches the way it should. Hmmmm.

Stop it, Jack. “That way madness lies.

1. Sometimes the profit motive helps, sometimes it doesn’t. One more note about TIME’s piece: there have been many articles recently about how journalism ethics are a a myth and need to be regarded as such, because the major news organizations are chasing clicks, ads and dollars, not truth, justice, or the American way. This argument has some obvious truth in it, but it is often used to exonerate journalists from pushing the political agendas of the Left, which they obviously do. The country is still very conservative in many ways; the Fox News model was spectacularly profitable; why doesn’t the profit motive inspire more balanced coverage, especially since there is a market for it? Is it just a coincidence that news rooms (even Fox News’) are nearly exclusively made up of Democrats and socialists? TIME was the perfect candidate to break ranks: an iconic mainstream media name, quickly fading into irrelevance and obscurity. Desperation topped loyalty to the team, and, ironically, betrayal led to an ethical result, even though it was motivated by non-ethical considerations.

2. “Cancelled” or put out to pasture? Fox News has cancelled the Lou Dobbs show, even though it is the top rated show on Fox Business News. “There is only one-way to look at this announcement…. corporate U.S. media is in the tank for the cancel-culture policy against all things President Trump related” writes the conservative blog “The Last Refuge.  “P.e.r.i.o.d.” I’m not so sure. I thought Dobbs was losing it several years ago when he suddenly appeared on the air with his previously white hair died caramel brown, and his enthusiasm for Donald Trump has often crossed the line into unprofessional cheer-leading. He’s 75, and Fox New may well have wanted to get him off the air before he had to be pulled. (Why won’t any of these guys retire?) Dobbs is also one of the three Fox News hosts named along with the network after voting software company Smartmatic filed its $2.7 billion defamation suit.

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Confession Of A Life Competence Failure

If you are going to be a competent member of society, it is important to follow the popular culture in addition to current events. I have always been a pop culture omnivore, watching TV shows I found barely interesting, listening to music I didn’t like, seeing as many movies as I could, and following sports I hated. I viewed with alarm my contemporaries who assiduously ignored what their children and their children’s friends were watching and who they cared about. This is how you become irrelevant, and also incompetent. A culture has many features, and affects everything: the analogy of an individual in a culture being like a fish in water is apt. All of these people, ideas and events surrounding us that we see as trivial and silly have a massive effect on the rest of our lives, and we ignore them at their peril.

Yet today I have to confess that despite what I thought were my best efforts to keep up with popular culture, it has whizzed by me. There are a lot of reasons, social media being a major one. Another is no longer having a teen in the house, but the reasons don’t matter. It is a citizen’s duty to make sufficient efforts to know and understand the culture of his or her nation, because without that understanding, a citizen is making decisions within that culture on outdated, partial, or just bad information. That is incompetent and irresponsible.

I give myself a pop culture test every six months or so. Today, I used WeSmirch, an online aggregator of celebrity news. It was horrifying. I never heard of most of these people. Those I have heard of seem completely irrelevant to me. Almost all of the important people in thse stories seem to be morons, famous for being famous, illiterate, notable mostly for being rich. The so-called “news,” breathless shouted from various headlines, seemed less than inconsequential. And yet this is what a rising generation cares about.

Here is a typical headline from this morning: “Vanessa Morgan’s son is called River.” Who is Vanessa Morgan? Who cares what her son is named? It turns out that she is an actress on “Riverdale,” a TV show based on the comic book whose appeal I never understood (but I read the damn thing so I knew what my friends were reading). Oddly, I do know something about River’s father, Michael Kopech, because he pitches for the Chicago White Sox, and once was a Red Sox pitching prospect.

Perusing the many articles and supposedly important celebrity news, I saw these names I could identify (unlike Ms. Morgan, who is, naturally, estranged from her newborn son’s father, as almost none of these celebrities think having a stable, two-parent marriage is a big deal because they are inexplicably rich, hence corrupting the values of their fans, who are not. Vanessa Morgan is also black, thus contributing in her own irresponsible way to the general mass shrug of the black community regarding two parent families):

  • Kopech
  • Tom Brady, the despicable NFL quarterback about to play in another Super Bowl
  • Rebel Wilson, the obese comic actress who lost a hundred pounds in 2020, which will prove good for her health but fatal to her career
  • Gigi Hadad, a model, and I have no idea why I know that.
  • Donald Trump
  • Actress Michelle Williams
  • Ryan Seacrest, the “American Idol” host
  • Rupert Grint, Ron Weasly in the “Harry Potter” films (saw every one, was bored stiff by the last five)
  • M. Night Shyamalan, the creepy movie director (he’s not creepy, just his films)
  • Chrissy Tiegen, another model
  • Kim Kardashian
  • Dustin Diamond, “Screech” on “Saved by the Bell,” who is now dead.
  • Queen Elizabeth and Prince Harry.
  • Cardi B, a rapper and social media star.

That’s fifteen. Now here are the supposedly important celebrities I couldn’t pick out of a line-up:

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When Tommy Lasorda Coached “Danny Kaye”: An Ethics Tale

Brian and Tommy

I wrote about my friend Brian Childers, a brilliant actor, singer, and all-around great guy, in this post, “An Act Of Kindness, Danny Kaye And Me : An Ethics Case Study,” from five years ago. It’s worth reading, if you haven’t already or don’t remember it. Brian continues to have a thriving career in New York City, with a successful album, roles in plays and musicals, and periodically, thrilling audiences with his dynamic recreation of Danny Kaye’s legendary one-man performances, the legacy of an adventure he and I set out upon over two decades ago.

I was recently tagged in a Facebook post by Brian, who related for the first time a revealing encounter he had with Tommy Lasorda, the Hall of Fame manager of the LA Dodgers for many years and legendary for his leadership abilities, lovable personality and positive attitude. Tommy died recently at the age of 93, and baseball fan that I am, I had been trying to justify mentioning him in an ethics post. Well, Brian took care of that with his usual flare.

He wrote in part,

I had the enormous privilege to meet this sports legend while performing at the Hollywood Bowl for 3 nights in 2008. The event was called “A Ball at the Bowl” and it was celebrating 50 years of the Dodgers in LA. I was there to sing Danny Kaye’s “D-O-D-G-E-R-S” song and one other with the LA Philharmonic.

Tommy’s dressing room was right across the hall from mine. On the first night, Tommy, whom I had never met, surprised me by knocking on my dressing room door. He introduced himself and was incredibly friendly. When he asked what I was doing in the event, I said I would be singing Danny Kaye’s Dodgers song with the orchestra.

He was ecstatic, but IMMEDIATELY put on his coach’s hat. “ You gotta go out there and you gotta sing great! You gotta go out there and knock em dead, Just focus on the song and you are gonna knock it out of the park,” he said, just like I was a rookie getting ready to play my first game. I thanked him for his encouragement.

While I was performing, I could hear Tommy in the wings yelling and clapping. When I walked off stage, he pounded me on the back, shouting, “Great job! You hit a home run buddy!”

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New Year’s Ethics Warm-Up, Entertainment Edition

Thats enter

1. “That’s Entertainment!” Once again, Turner Movie Classics ran all of the “That’s Entertainment!’ series as its New Year’s Eve programming. Last time TCM did this, primary host Ben Mankiewicz won ethics points for having the guts to say, as his fellow hosts were gushing about MGM musicals between “That’s Entertainment!” 1 and 2, that he regarded movie musicals as in the same category as super-hero movies today: diverting fluff, but not cinematic masterpieces. I don’t completely agree with him, but as Mankiewicz has shown before, he has integrity as an expert analyst, and does not hesitate to register opinions that his audience might not like. (Where Ben is wrong in his comparison is that the old movie musicals showcase astonishing talents that we are unlikely to see the like of again—Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, Julie Andrews and others—while the super-hero movies merely display special effects that we are doomed to see repeated for the rest of our lives. In support of Ben’s point, I have to admit that watching “That’s Entertainment” one is struck by how few truly great movie musicals there were.

Last night, Ben scored again as a truth-teller. After mouthing the conventional wisdom that Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were regarded as the greatest dancers in Hollywood history, he added, “Of course, Eleanor Powell and the Nicholas Brothers might disagree.” As an early clip in “That’s Entertainment!” shows, a dance-off between Astaire and Powell, she could match Fred step for step. The Nicholas Brothers, who only appear briefly in TE1, never had a chance to impress white audiences, but when you watch them, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they could perform feats of feet that neither Kelly nor Astaire could match.

2. “That’s Entertainment!” (cont.) The series is as good an example as one could find of why sequel are cheats most of the time. The first in the series was perfectly conceived: at a time of national cynicism in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam, during a period where movies were becoming violent and bloody and MGM, once the “Dream Factory,” was being sold off. Jack Haley, Jr, the son of Judy Garland’s Tim Man and an MGM executive, had the idea of using old clips and old stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age to show a new generation what thrilled their parents and grandparents. In part because of Haley’s clever choices of material and his editing, the movie worked better than anyone could have imagined. I saw it in D.C. grand Uptown theater (it just closed it doors forever, killed by the lockdown) with a packed house of Baby Boomers. During the opening credits, the audience broke into spontaneous applause as each names of the co-hosts, past their primes all (except for Liza Minnelli), appeared on the screen. Donald O’Connor! (Applause)…Mickey Rooney! (Applause). I’ve never witnessed anything like it.

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And THIS Is Why Celebrities Should Shut Up And Act, Sing, Dance, Look Good, Or Whatever They Did To Get Famous . . .

Banks

Elizabeth Banks, a B+ movie actress whose career zenith was either playing Jeff Bridges’ wife in “Sea Biscuit” or a supporting role in “The Hunger Games” movies, decided to rant about “Stand your ground” laws last week. The impetus was the Ohio legislature passing a version of the law, thus joining about half the states. Banks responded by tweeting, to her

“Stand Your Ground is BS. We used to play hide and seek all over the neighborhood on summer nights. Intent was to play. We were kids but some of my cousins were big guys. There were a few easily-jumped fences in the neighborhood but also houses with no fences at all. A new neighbor moved onto our street. Apparently he mistook us hiding behind trees in his unfenced yard at 9pm for … burglars? Predators?” All of a sudden, an arrow was shot into the tree behind which we hid. From a professional bow and arrow. This guy didn’t yell out ‘who’s there’ or ‘get off my property or I’m calling the cops’ or any other question or warning. He just shot at children. He hit the tree so it was seemingly a warning shot. Message received, WE yelled out that we were just playing and could he let us please run away without shooting. Then we ran.”

“Also sometimes our dog got loose. We would go into yards looking for her. All I can think about when people pretend Stand Your Ground is about anything other than permission to kill people are those moments when I myself stepped onto a neighbor’s property. Where is the evidence that Stand Your Ground does anything but endanger your neighbors, their dogs, their kids? It helps nobody but people who want justified reasons to use a deadly weapon. If I’d been shot and killed playing hide and seek, would that new neighbor have been able to just shrug his shoulders while living across the street from my grieving parents? With laws like this, probably yes.I don’t want to live in a world where we fear our neighbors so much that we can’t freely lose a ball/dog/frisbee or cut through somebody’s yard to avoid harassment — all things I have done. What yards did you wander into and why?”

Observations:

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