The Ethics Mess That Is US Race Relations, Chapter I: The Killingly Redmen Fiasco

In Killingly, Connecticut, the local high school’s mascot has long been  a Plains Indian, and its athletic teams have been called the Redmen. Then, in 2019, the Nipmuc Tribal Council across the state border in Massachusetts complained that the name and mascott were offensive. [There’s an interesting discussion of the association of the color red with Native Americans here.]  Once the complaint was made, other Native American groups decided, “Yeah! We’re offended too!” along with usual gang of offended-by -proxy political correctness zealots. (Does this all sound familiar? It should.)

As typically happens in such situations, the people in charge decided to take the path of least resistance—this is how political correctness and expression suppression take hold, as you know–and in July, the Killingly  school board voted to eliminate  “Redmen” and the mascot and change it to “Redhawks.” It’s just a name, right?

Well, not this time. The uproar was so great that restoring “Redmen” became an election issue. Supporters of the old name and mascot took  control of the school board in the November 2019 election. However, while the new members had enough votes to eliminate the “Redhawks” name, they couldn’t muster enough to restore “Redmen.” “There is no mascot at this point,” said Craig Hanford, the new Republican board chairman, and he sent the dispute to a committee.

Fans of the football team, it was reported, shouted “Go Redmen!” during games during the rest of the season, wore Redmen jerseys and hats, and told anyone who asked that there was nothing racist about the name. One fan wore the grammatically perplexing sweatshirt, “Born a Redmen, Raised a Redmen, Will Die a Redmen.Continue reading

In Sports, Discretion Is The Enemy Of Integrity

The Denver Bronchos last second win over the San Diego Chargers last weekend was one more game decided by a controversial pass interference call. That rule, with which the NFL has been tinkering and which is now complicated by a video review system, is becoming increasingly controversial this season. Wrote Times football columnist Ben Shpiegel,

[E]very week across the N.F.L.’s vast empire one player interferes with another before a pass arrives — and goes unpunished for it. In these moments, when yellow penalty flags remain lodged in officials’ pockets, aggrieved coaches weigh emotion against reason: Do they challenge the non-call, hoping that by sheer luck it will be overruled by the new video review mechanism? Or do they stew on the sideline, red flag pocketed, and resign themselves to the unlikelihood of a reversal?…After 12 weeks of wasted challenges and lost timeouts, of inconsistency and obfuscation, the league’s erratic application of the defined standard for overturning an on-field decision — “clear and obvious visual evidence” — has made the football masses yearn for simpler times, such as when no one knew what constituted a catch. Over all, through Week 12, 15 of 77 reviews of pass interference were overturned, though nearly half of those reversals — seven of 15 — were initiated by the officials in the replay booth, who are responsible for challenges in the last two minutes of the half… The questionable calls have dented confidence in a mechanism ostensibly intended to restore it after a mess of an N.F.C. championship game, in which Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, without consequence, walloped Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived.

The dilemma isn’t restricted to football. In any sport where an official’s judgment plays a big role in game results, the interjection of technology and the universal broadcast of games has created an integrity crisis. Before multiple camera angles and the  possibility of replays, umpires and referees could blow a crucial call and nobody would be the wiser, or at least would be able to prove that the game was decided by a non-player’s botch. Now, bad calls are there, on a big screen, then the internet, for all to see over and over. The Luddite argument that missed calls are the “human element” and “part of the game” made sense when there was nothing to be done about it. It is ridiculous now. Continue reading

The Garrett-Rudolph Attack: Yes, It’s Unethical For Even NFL Players To Try To Kill Each Other….

As if the game itself, legally played, weren’t enough to cause its players brain damage, in a Thursday Night televised pro football game this week Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ripped the helmet off Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and clubbed him in the head with it. The league acted swiftly, suspending Garrett for the rest of this season, including the playoffs should the Browns make them, and reinstatement is by no means assured.

Good.

This is the longest suspension for an on-field incident in NFL history. I can find no fault with Garrett’s apology, Level One on the Apology Scale, issued before the sentence came down. He said, Continue reading

Veteran’s Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/19: Wishing My Dad Hadn’t Died Before He Figured Out How To Comment On Ethics Alarms…[CORRECTED]

Pop Quiz:

How many military veterans are currently running for President in 2020?

Answer: Two…Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

[Correction notice: I forgot about Pete in the first version of the post. Thanks to Jutgory for the catch, and thanks to Mayor Buttigieg for his service.]

1.  Here’s that “violating democratic norms” Big Lie again. This one was flagged by Ann Althouse (Thanks, Ann!)

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman,  an appointee of President Bill Clinton,  said in a speech at  the annual Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington, D.C. last week, “We are in unchartered territory. We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.'”

Althouse comments,

How do you get to be a federal judge and think the expression is “unchartered territory”? That’s a written speech too (presumably). Did he visualize some entity that issues charters authorizing people to speak about the courts in a particular way? You don’t need a license to speak in the United States, and to require one would, ironically, violate our norms. The expression is “uncharted territory,” which would simply mean that Trump is venturing into a new area of speech that we haven’t previously explored and therefore have not mapped…Now, I agree with the idea that Trump’s speech about law is unconventional, but what determines that he has violated all recognized democratic norms? It’s often said that the judiciary is the least democratic part of the government, that it’s countermajoritarian. So what are the norms of democracy that say a President should not criticize the courts?! You might just as well call this purported norm a norm of anti-democracy.

Anyway… the weasel word is “recognized.” It takes all the oomph out of “all.” Trump’s speech about judges violates “all recognized democratic norms.” Who are the recognizers? The judges? Judges certainly have a role talking about democratic norms, which are often part of the determination of the scope of the judicial role: Judges refrain from doing what is left to the processes of democracy. But part of democracy is speech about government — which includes the judges — and that speech is not limited to flattering and deferring to them. It does not violate the norms of democracy to criticize and attack judges.

Bingo. And it is because of judges whot say these sorts of things that the President is not unreasonable to accuse the judiciary of  bias. Ann chose not to mention that this was also a “norm” breached by Barack Obama, more than once, but I will, the point not being “everybody does it,” but that to this judge and others, what Obama did was apparently only objectionable when Trump did it too—a common theme in the anti-Trump propaganda of the last three years. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce, Determined To Be Duncier: Oakland Raiders Wide Receiver Antonio Brown

Antonio and his beloved helmet

The weird Brown saga  is useful evidence—I almost wrote “intelligence,” and it’s definitely not THAT—regarding the mystery how the NFL can get away with crippling its players by nearly guaranteeing that they will be brain-damaged early in life and demented later. True, they pay their stars a lot to give their brains and future to the game for the profit of team owners and sponsors. True, NFL fans don’t care what if their favorite human battering rams and tackling dummies can’t speak coherently in their fifties as long as they can chant, “DE-Fence!” every Sunday (and some Mondays and Thursdays) while and guzzle beer. Still, it helps that so many NFL players aren’t all that swift to begin with.

Exhibit Duh is Oakland’s Antonio Brown, who has reportedly told team officials that he will quit the game unless he is allowed to wear his old helmet in the upcoming season. That old helmet has been banned by the league, which in light of CTE research and various tests and studies, has determined that it is unacceptably dangerous, unlike the game itself, which is acceptably dangerous.  Brown has even filed a grievance with the NFL to try to get permission to wear the same model helmet he wore with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That helmet, however, is no longer certified by the National Operating Committee for Standards and Athletic Equipment. Now, the NFL revels in The Kings Pass, and has allowed its stars to get away with a lot—drug use, felonies, murder arrests, cheating, domestic abuse, beating their kids, protesting the National Anthem for no coherent reason. I doubt, however, that even the NFL will cave to Brown’s demands.

All sports have safety rules, and players do not have the choice of defying them. Indy Racers can’t declare that they are more comfy without seat-belts; cyclists can’t insist that they want to wear baseball caps in the Tour de France. Interestingly, hockey goalies can play maskless, but none are foolish enough to do it. There hasn’t been a bare-faced NHL goalie since the mid-70’s, when they decided that they didn’t want to go through life looking like Terry Sawchuck…

Of course, if you’re sufficiently brain damaged, you don’t care how you look.

Brown’s determination to reduce his IQ by wearing the banned helmet is the stuff of myth and legend. Michael Silver related the tale in a long trail of tweets: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/8/2019: Hating Hate By Hating The Hateful Haters

Good morning.

Are you nuts? I’m not. Yet.

1. You want deranged? This is deranged. MSNBC put analyst Frank Figliuzzi on the air to explain the Nazi symbolism at the White House.  Figliuzzi is a former FBI assistant—think about that as you read this—and he has been given media credibility of late because he had  predicted that white supremacist violence was potentially imminent due to President Trump’s rhetoric. Of course, I predicted months ago that the relentless divisive rhetoric from “the resistance” would get someone killed soon, and nobody’s calling me to blather on TV…and I’m not insane, like this guy.

Figliuzzi alerted MSNBC World about the sinister numerical connection between neo-Naziism and the Trump administration’s decision to fly flags at half-mast until August 8 in honor of the victims of the Dayton and El Paso shootings.

“If we don’t understand how they think, we’ll never understand how to counter them,” he said. “The President said that we will fly our flags at half mast, until August 8. That’s 8/8. Now, I’m not going to imply that he did this deliberately, but I am using it as an example of the ignorance of the adversary that’s being demonstrated by the White House. The numbers 88 are very significant in neo-Nazi and white supremacy movement. Why? Because the letter ‘H’ is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and to them the numbers 8-8 together stand for ‘Heil Hitler.’ So we’re going to be raising the flag back up at dusk on 8/8. No one is thinking about this.”

Once again, this calls for Sidney Wang...

The reason that nobody is thinking about this, you idiot, is that it is deranged. How crazy can “the resistance” get and not start a stampede to the President, in reflex revulsion to the lies, the disrespect, the paranoia, the smears and the hysteria? The Times this week was musing about why Trump’s approval ratings are rising even as the mainstream media has been proclaiming that he’s a Nazi racist and responsible for every shooting in America.

To ask the question is to answer it.

(I just realized my piano is a Nazi…) Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2019: Rhode Island On My Mind Edition

 

Providence, Rhode Island

Good morning!

I’m heading up to Little Rhodey in a few hours to once again collaborate with my brilliant Ethics Rock musician Mike Messer before the Rhode Island Bar, as well as to try to back about 7 hours of legal ethics and technology commentary into a 75 minute break-out session.

1. Once again, law vs ethics.The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld those lame duck laws the GOP legislature passed to hamstring the new Democratic Governor. It is the correct decision. The measures were unethical, but legal, just like Mitch McConnell’s gambit to refuse giving Merrick Garland a hearing, just like Harry Reid’s “reconciliation” maneuver to get the amended Affordable Care Act passed without having to send it  back to the House.

2. Correct, but futile.  From the Washington Post: Continue reading