Ethics Dunces: Boston Red Sox Players

owens pole

Yesterday, while watching the Boston Red Sox game on NESN as I always do EVEN WHEN THE TEAM STINKS, like this year, because no summer soldier I, team broadcasters Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy pointed out that Sox rookie Henry Owens was watching the game while being taped to a pole, with his mouth taped shut as well.

This is old-fashioned baseball rookie hazing, as Remy explained (also opining that he thought it was stupid when he played and is stupid now). The theory is that this makes rookies part of the team, builds cohesion and spirit, and yada yada yada, all the same phony rationalizations that jerks have used to excuse hazing cruelty and sadism in fraternities, the military, cults and sports teams for eons. The Owens stunt was relatively mild (and mercifully short), but the practice of hazing is still institutionalized bullying, uncivilized, and, as Remy said, stupid.

Sports team players are home town heroes, and role models too. How many kids will be humiliated, tortured, injured or even killed because the Boston Red Sox thought it was funny to immobilize a 6’6″ rookie pitcher by taping him to a pole on live TV, thus teaching him that no matter how  good he may be at pitching (and Owens is going to be really good), he’s at the bottom of the pecking order until he “earns” decent treatment and respect. “In my experience, the guys who really liked hazing the rookies were the players who couldn’t play,” noted Jerry, a Sox regular in the Eighties.  They were sadistic bullies, in other words, making up for their own inadequacies by abusing others.

You can say that Owens consented, and that’s like arguing that Monica consented when the President of the United States wanted her to emulate a Bourbon Street hooker. Owens could refuse, and be regarded as a bad team mate, leading to a year or more of cut shoelaces, shredded uniforms, insulting messages on his locker and worse “jokes.” Or he could quit baseball and sell Slurpees rather than make a gazillion dollars. He had to submit, and had to smile about it.

So he did.

Even baseball players need to be better at ethics chess than this, and calculate the likely consequences of their conduct. Hazing is unethical, and glamorizing, modeling and trivializing it on TV is irresponsible.

And stupid.

Comment of the Day: “The Hazing Abuse of Michael Warren”

Reminding us that one or even several incidents can’t give us the full whole measure of an organization, Hartwick College alum Fred Stoss recalls an act of courage and principle by the fraternity that hazed Michael Warren. Let Fred tell the story:

“I cannot defend the actions of what happened to Mr. Warren. I am a member of Alpha Delta Omega Fraternity, having pledged in 1969 and served as its President from 1971 to 1972. During this time our fraternity was a rather diverse community of whites, blacks, browns, Protestants (Hartwick was then a Lutheran College), Catholics, and Jewish. There is, however, a piece of ADO history (taken from the ADO FaceBook site) that deserves mention: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Hazing Abuse of Michael Warren”

Frequent commenter and anti-child abuse advocate Steven Mark Pilling catalogues the defenses and rationalizations offered here by collegiate commenters who thought my post was overly hard on pro-hazing Hartwick College. The references to “Hounddog” relate to a thankfully buried film shot five years years back that required a 12-year-old Dakota Fanning to be the victim in a graphic rape scene with an adult actor. Steven, along with Paul Petersen and others, successfully exposed the film’s skirting of laws and exploitation of Fanning. You can read my ethics commentary on that horrible story here and here.

“Jack: In reading those collegian posts and your responses, I almost had a feeling of deja vu. Isn’t it amazing how all the excuses and means of “defending the indefensible”- no matter what the specific issue- have points of commonality that immediately grab at you? When I was involved in the “Hounddog” issue, I ran into them all. I see many of them here… Continue reading

The Hazing Abuse of Michael Warren

Michael Warren should have consulted Kevin Bacon...

A fraternity hazing story—yes, amazing as it seems, there are still hazings—raises the persistent ethical issue of whether a victim is responsible for his own mistreatment if he consents to it. Even if he shares responsibility, however, his consent does nothing to reduce the ethical failings of the abusers, or those of the irresponsible authorities who presided over a sick campus culture.

Michael Warren is an African American who was the only black pledge of the Alpha Delta Omega fraternity at Hartwick College (in Oneonta, New York). His potential “brothers” locked him in a bathroom with other pledges for hours, where they were subjected to ear-splitting music and strobe lights; he was forced, he says, to dress like a pimp, a humiliating bit of racial stereotyping; and, shades of the evil Omega Theta Phi fraternity in “Animal House,” was paddled so hard that he needed medical treatment (“Thank you, sir, may I have another?”). Warren complained, and found himself a pariah on campus, making him so uncomfortable that he gave up his scholarship to transfer to Hofstra. Now he is suing Hartwick, and his lawyer is arguing that his mistreatment by the fraternity “may have ruined his life.” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Find The Tell-Tale Mistake!

Unfortunately, James O'Keefe is no Nellie Bly

Kansas City Star reporter Mary Sanchez has posted an excellent column entitled “James O’Keefe and the Ethical Bankruptcy of ‘Gotcha’ Journalism.” Outside of an unfortunate final “Let’s see some genuine evidence that NPR’s coverage is biased” conclusion (you mean, other than its choice of stories, its lack of ideological balance, Nina Totenberg, its treatment of Juan Williams, and its institutionalized positions on issues like Palestine, gun control, abortion,  and illegal immigration?), she makes a strong case. But her piece is marred by a tell-tale gaffe that makes me doubt her own ethical orientation.

Your challenge in today’s Ethics Quiz: Find it! It occurs in this section: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Huffington Post Blogger Mike Elk

Correctionmake that fired Huffington Post blogger Mike Elk, and here’s why: Elk, a 24-year-old freelance labor journalist, used his press credentials to get labor union demonstrators unauthorized access to a Mortgage Bankers Association event, where they  protested and disrupted the proceedings. He gave his credentials to one of the union organizers. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby

“He’s just taking after the head coach, man. It all trickles downhill. That’s how I look at it, it trickles downhill. The head coach, he opened a can of worms over there and now he’s got to fix it.”

Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby, commenting on the outrageous conduct of  New York Jets trainer Sal Alosi ,who intentionally tripped a Miami Dolphins player on the sideline during a game Sunday. Alosi was suspended without pay for the rest of the season, including the playoffs, and fined an additional $25,000.

Dansby is exactly right. Continue reading