Comment of the Day: “Ethical If We Want It To Be: NBA Flopping and Fooling the Ref”

This is a wonderful comment by Dwayne N. Zechman, which goes to the heart of what makes sports ethics so perplexing. Let me leave it to Dwayne now, and I’ll have some comments at the end. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post Ethical If We Want It To Be: NBA Flopping and Fooling the Ref:

“I admit I’m having a little trouble with this one.

“If I understand correctly, your premise is that each sport has its rulebook, and what’s ethical or not is mostly determined by what’s in that rulebook. The outside margins of “mostly” come from long-standing traditions, and de facto rules related to safety or practicality. The game isn’t life–it’s a distinct “closed system” if you will, and the rules about life might not apply. Or perhaps it’s better to say that we can choose to declare (in the rulebook or through tradition) that certain rules of life do not apply within the game and that’s okay. Doing so diminishes neither the ethical rule nor the game itself.

“So the beginning of my trouble is that this smacks a little of a combination of “Everybody does it”, “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical”, and The Compliance Dodge. Okay, I can accept that, though, because we’ve already stipulated that specific ethical principles can be exempted from a game/sport.

“Next comes my own dissonance in trying to reconcile this article with other recent articles here on Ethics Alarms about pro football, where the same exemption of ethical principles is applied, but somehow shouldn’t be. Okay, I can accept this, too. There is a distinction in that an ethical principle shouldn’t be exempted from the game when there are clear, demonstrable consequences to the player that persist after the game is over and the player’s real life resumes. In a situation such as that, it’s impossible to exempt an ethical principle JUST for the game because the exemption itself renders the game no longer a “closed system”. Continue reading

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