Ten Further Thoughts On The “The Taunting Girls Softball Team”

Well! I returned from my seminar to find an excellent discussion underway regarding this Morning’s Ethics Warm-up, wholly devoted to the Virginia girls softball team that was hammered mercilessly for the raised middle fingers of six teammates to send off their vanquished foes in the semi-finals. Here are some further thoughts after reading the comments:

1. There is no question that the conduct of the girls concerned the game, the sport, and the League. They were in uniform. The message directed the “up yours” gesture to the other team. This is not a case where personal expression via social media was punished by an outside authority. Ethics Alarms has been profuse in its rejections of efforts by schools to punish students for their language, ideas or other expression on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat. Those are clearly, in my view, abuses of power, parental authority and free expression. This is not like such cases in any way. If a cheerleader squad, wearing the uniforms, colors and emblems of a school, behaved like these girls, punishment by the school would be appropriate, right up to the “death sentence” of dissolving the squad.

2. Would the reaction to the photo be different if it were a boy’s team? I just don’t think so.

3. The comparison has been made to the earlier post about Matt Joyce, a major league player, being suspended by the league for a comment made to one fan during a game in a heated exchange. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what anyone would think is similar about the two episodes, the primary difference being the fact that in one case, an adult was disciplined for professional misconduct on the field of play, and in the other, children were disciplined for breaching conduct their sport and organization exists in part to teach, reinforce and convey. The punishment of the player was $60,000 in lost income for a single word, not broadcast via social media. The team was not punished except to have to play without his services for two games, but then it was not colorably a team offense by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t even want to think about what an MLB team would do to six players who, in uniform, made the same gesture the girls did to “our fans.” They might all get released. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/8/2017: The Taunting Girl’s Softball Team

Good Morning!

I’m squeezed today like fresh orange juice!

I have an early morning ethics seminar in about 90 minutes, so one topic is all I have time for. But it is a good warm-up, reaching an ethics issue—the proper level of punishment for civility breaches in sports— recently discussed here, but with very different factors and ethical considerations involved.

Here and Virginia, many are steaming over the harsh punishment handed down to the victorious Atlee Little League girls’ softball team, which was kicked out of  the Junior League World Series,  featuring the best 12-to-15-year-old girls teams in the world, only hours before its players were about to take the field on national television. The team’s offense: an unsportsmanlike social media post, taunting its last opponent.

Atlee prevailed in a week long tournament in Kirkland, Washington, culminating in tense 1-0 victory in the semifinal game against the host team. Apparently resentment between the teams ran high, and the game featured a controversy over the Kirkland team stealing signs. (Stealing signs in a girls’ softball game? Wow. I didn’t even think there were signs in girls’ softball!)

After the victory, the carptain of the Atlee team used Snapchat to post a photo of showing six members of the team flipping the Fuck You Finger at the Kirkland team.

The Atlee manager Scott Currie heard about the post and had it deleted. Then he arranged for his team to deliver a formal apology in person  to the Kirkland players the same evening. Nonetheless, it was too little, too late. The next morning the head office of the Little League World Series disqualified Atlee from the tournament, and awarded Kirkland the berth in the title game.

The Junior League  issued the following statement:

“After discovering a recent inappropriate social media post involving members of Atlee Little League’s Junior League Softball tournament team, the Little League® International Tournament Committee has removed the Southeast Region from the 2017 Junior League Softball World Series for violation of Little League’s policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct, inappropriate use of social media, and the high standard that Little League International holds for all its participants.”

Not surprisingly, supporters of the Atlee team, and the team itself, feel that the punishment is excessive.

Observations: Continue reading