Ethical If We Want It To Be: NBA Flopping and Fooling the Ref

“And in the category of Best Feigned Foul in An NBA Play-Off Game, the nominees are….”

Once again, the issue of players in professional sports intentionally deceiving the referees is enlivening the sports pages. I welcome it: the intersection of sports and ethics is always fascinating. This particular intersection is as old as sports itself. Is deceiving the referee (or umpire) for the benefit of one’s team competitive gamesmanship or cheating? Is it an accepted tactic, or poor sportsmanship? In short, is it ethical or unethical?

The current version of this controversy has broken out in the National Basketball Association, where  Commissioner Daniel Stern  has declared war on “flopping”—the maneuver where a player draws an undeserved foul on an opposing player by acting as if minor contact or even no contact at all was near-criminal battery. Stern has suggested that the NBA needs to start handing out major fines for these performances, which in the heat and speed of the game are often only detectable with the aid of slow-motion replay after the fact Continue reading