Ethics Dunce: Washington Post Sportswriter Sally Jenkins

Here is all you really need to know. Tampa Bay Bucs star Antonio Brown refused to enter the game when so ordered during the third quarter of Sunday’s NFL game between the Bucs and New York Jets. Brown then stripped off his equipment and shirt before leaving the field. Jenkins says that the Bucs were cruel and unfair to fire him after the game, which is what they did. (Sort of.)

She writes in part,

For all of the NFL’s well-intentioned efforts on mental health, the Buccaneers have betrayed just how much of an archaic, body-commodifying, ranchers-and-cattle mentality can persist where decent human feeling should be. Was Brown not an asset and a “model citizen” for many months, as Arians said? Did he not help them win the Super Bowl last season? He caught 10 passes for his playoff-bound team just a week ago. Who on the Bucs didn’t know Brown had a tangled personality, demons stemming from indigence as a kid, that he had a pile of legal issues, trouble conforming and a penchant for self-sabotage?

It’s easy to be sympathetic to Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka or Michael Phelps for their mental health issues. Their struggles were largely invisible, their confessions soft-spoken. Not so much with Brown. In his case, he lives his crazy and his pain right out loud, in front of the cameras and social media, and it’s unnerving, unlikeable and in some instances perhaps inexcusable, from alleged sexual misconduct to refusing to pay debtors to faking a vaccine card. But the remarks of his teammates make it clear that they have deep affection for his best side and view much of his behavior as stemming from emotional unwellness….

It’s hard to think of another field in which so valuable an employee is so summarily cut loose when deemed broken or noncompliant. …Brown works harder than any man in the league to be uncoverable…His body fat is 3 percent. You don’t work that way because you don’t want to play to win or because you want to be an unreliable teammate. In no other profession do employers demand such devotion and repay it with so little loyalty and deem people so disposable.

I wish I could say it’s rare to see a sports columns so flamingly wrong in so many ways, but that’s not true, unfortunately. But wow: Jenkins is in ethics dunce Hall of Fame territory…

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The Supreme Court Rules Against Government-Enforced Political Correctness

The Supreme Court affirmed today that a Trademark law’s restriction on registration of disparaging marks violates the free speech guarantees of the US Constitution. In the case of Matal v. Tam, the Court (as Ethics Alarms predicted over a year ago) ruled that the government cannot legally  deny a trademark to companies or other applicants solely on the basis of the name being regarded as “offensive.”

Good.

The case concerned  an Asian-American band called The Slants, but the decision effectively settles the Washington Redskins’ fight to retain the trademark on its nickname. Harry Reid, also engaging in unconstitutional infringement of free speech, had his Democrats in the Senate send a threatening letter to team owner Dan Snyder, while the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), taking its cues from the Obama Administration theme that race and victim-mongering  trumps basic rights, ruled that the Washington NFL team’s name was “disparaging to Native Americans,” and cancelled six of its federal trademark registrations. The team appealed that verdict, and team owner Dan Snyder has vowed not to cave to illegal bullying from the government.

Thanks to the ruling—did I mention that it was unanimous?—the PTO will begin allowing registration of disparaging marks and will not cancel Registered marks because they are disparaging.

The last time I addressed this issue, in December of 2015, I wrote,

“I would like to see Snyder fight off the unethical government speech bullies, foil the political correctness hordes, and then, after he hasn’t heard a peep about team for a couple of years quietly change the anachronistic team name on his own volition. It’s time. The message sent by capitulating to the activists trying to force him to change, however, would be the same dangerous message sent by today’s college administrators, which is that a claim of offense doesn’t have to be reasonable to effectively muzzle speech, just persistent.”

I also wrote, somewhat more passionately ,in an earlier post, Continue reading

A Federal Court Reinstates Tom Brady’s Suspension For Cheating

Good.

What Brady doesn't get: When people think you cheated, the smirk is does as much damage as the conduct.

What Brady doesn’t get: When people think you cheated, the smirk is does as much damage as the conduct.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit appeals court reinstated the NFL’s four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady yesterday. This overturned last year’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who had nullified the league’s suspension of the superstar quarterback. The three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote…

“We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness.”

It is important to note that the Court only ruled on whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had the power to suspend Brady and did not violate the player’s rights as a players union member by doing so. The NFL’s current deal with the players gives Goodell the kind of power Major League Baseball gave to its first commissioner after the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, when gamblers fixed the World Series. Goodell, like Landis, can use his discretion to punish a player for “conduct detrimental” to the game and the NFL. They did this because a disturbing number of NFL players were getting headlines for doing things that don’t comport with what the public expects of its paid heroes, like sucker-punching women, shooting people, getting in bar fights, and engaging in assorted felonies. The game also has a very successful coach, Brady’s coach, in fact, who has made it very clear that he will cheat whenever he can get away with it..

I’m not going to rehash the “Deflategate” incident: I wrote enough about it when it occurred. Nobody knows for certain if Tom Brady in fact did conspire with Patriots employees to cheat when his team was behind in a crucial play-off game, but we know this: Continue reading

Why Don’t People Understand What’s Unethical About Nepotism?

Bing and family

I suppose it is part of the larger problem that people don’t understand what’s wrong with conflicts of interest, and thus fall into them too easily. At its core, nepotism always, always, creates a conflict of interest for the supervisor, boss or manager, or leaves a strong suspicion of one, which is just as bad, the epitome of “the appearance of impropriety.” Nepotism simultaneously destroys the organization’s members’ trust in leadership—Was he or she objective? Was love and loyalty to a child rather than merit and the best interests of the organization behind the decision? Were there objectively better candidates? Will this bias harm me? —and the hired, no matter how good or qualified the son or daughter may be. If the organization declines and heads have to roll, the suspicion will always be that favoritism protects the offspring. If the organization is successful, there will still be a widespread belief that Sonny Boy or Darling Daughter is whispering in the parents’ ear, a mole, on the side of the parent rather than subordinates. Nepotism almost always destroys any organization’s morale, trust, and cohesion.

Why is this so difficult? It is spectacularly obvious, and the only defenses that are ever offered are… Continue reading

The Rams’ “Hands Up!” Gesture: Of Course The Players Deserved be Disciplined

rams protest 1201

The five St. Louis Rams who entered their NFL game last week with their hands up aren’t going to be disciplined by the league, for reasons that have nothing to do with the appropriateness of their conduct. The NFL is up to its faceguards in bad public relations already, and understandably wants to avoid wading into the Ferguson quagmire and being perceived to be taking sides, a move with no up-sides at all. Sportswriter Sally Jenkins also took issue with the St. Louis police demanding that the players be punished, in an emotional statement that seemed to threaten vague consequences if they were not. She was right to point out that government entities may not use threats of non-performance of their duties to members of the public in order to control their speech, like, say, the Federal government is doing now to try to force Dan Snyder to change the name of his Washington, D.C. NFL team.

Jenkins’ conclusion, however, was an ethics mess:

“Five members of the St. Louis Rams made an edgy gesture on Sunday, and you may not agree with them. But they merely joined a long tradition of athletes using their celebrity for symbolic public protest, and the NFL was right to reject the call to punish them. Punish them for what, after all? For showing an alertness and sensitivity to current events in their community, and holding an opinion on them?”

1. The “long tradition” argument is “everybody does it,” and nothing better. Professional athletes are paid to play games and entertain. Few of them have any qualifications or expertise that elevate the value of their opinions on public policy and politics above that of the regulate citizens watching them, and it is an abuse of their position and an exploitation of the venue for any athlete to exploit both to make a personal statement. Earlier, Jenkins says that to punish the Rams players “would also smack of 1968, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled from the Olympic Games for their black-gloved salutes,” as if that’s an argument. Smith and Carlos should have been expelled. The Olympics wasn’t theirs to co-opt for national political statements, no matter how valid or worthy. The Rmas players can hold opinions, and nobody is saying otherwise. Once they are in uniform and on the field, however, their opinions are not for display. They don’t own the forum. Continue reading

Of Black Lungs and Concussions: How Can An Ethical Person Be A Football Fan?

So now you know. And,,,?

So now you know. And…?

The worst thing about pro football is not its wife-beating, gun-toting, child-beating players, or that the league happily has been willing to ignore these little flaws while promoting such flawed men as heroes to America’s young. Nor is the worst thing about pro football the fact that one of its teams has a politically incorrect nickname. No, the worst thing about pro football is that it makes billions from inducing young men to cripple their cognition long before nature would even consider doing it to them, and corrupts its huge national audience by inducing it to not only cheer this process, but pay for it.

Sally Jenkins, in a frank, stark column for the Washington Post, compared the NFL to the coal industry of yore, when minors were dying of black lung and terrible working conditions, and the government had to step in:

Since the NFL insists on behaving like the coal industry circa 1969, the only solution to its problems is for Congress to step in and regulate the business of these 32 billionaire plunderers. This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs brain bank announced that 76 out of 79 deceased NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease. The price for owning a team just went up. Jerry Jones, Bob Kraft, Dan Snyder, Steve Bisciotti and all the rest, if you want to enrich yourselves at the expense of the ravaged health of others, be prepared to pay for it. Your future is endless litigation and government interference.

The CTE thunderbolt follows closely on the league’s callous handling of domestic violence cases. A new raft of medical investigations and lawsuits say that CTE caused some of these devastating domestic explosions, such as Jovan Belcher’s 2013 murder-suicide. CTE leads to aggression, paranoia, impaired judgment and depression….Here’s the deal: Concussions are the black lung of the NFL. And the league knows it.

Sure it does, but my problem is, so do its fans. The nation needed coal, still needs it in fact, so regulating that industry was reasonable, imperative, and practical. The country doesn’t need to have a deadly sport to watch every Sunday (Thursday, Monday…). Once it could claim that it was innocent, that helmeted players were protected, and that the tragically crippled were aberrations. Not any more. Continue reading

Political Correctness Delusions #2: The U.S. Military Naming Its Helicopters After Native American Tribes Is A Slur

Military Helicopters 0088

The scourge of political correctness causes many kinds of damage, but the most ominous is that it intentionally greases a steep slippery slope. The effort to constrain private and public expression according to an endlessly versatile definition of “offensiveness”  is a desirable weapon for political activists, grievance bullies, censorious and debate-challenged advocates, weenies, and busybodies. Once one specious argument for strangling another small sliver of free speech succeeds, usually after capitulation in the face of relentless vilification and hounding aided and abetted by the press, this ugly and anti-American faction of the progressive movement just moves on to another target. The process  will never end, although it will get more oppressive, restrictive and absurd. That is, it will never end until a backlash and an outbreak of rationality stops it in its tracks.

The Patent Office’s politically motivated (and doomed) attack on the Washington Redskins was an example of political correctness at its worst, and sure enough, here comes another deluded censor with a related and even sillier grievance. Simon Waxman wrote a jaw-dropping op-ed for the Washington Post arguing that the military’s use of Native American names and works on its helicopters and weaponry is a “slur.” Why, you ask? Because the white man cheated and defeated the Indians using superior fire power, that’s why. Yeah, sure, we pretend to honor their bravery now, but that’s just to salve our guilty consciences.  He blathers…

The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us. In whatever measure it is tribute to the dead, it is in greater measure a boost to our national sense of superiority. And this message of superiority is shared not just with U.S. citizens but with those of the 14 nations whose governments buy the Apache helicopters we sell. It is shared, too, with those who hear the whir of an Apache overhead or find its guns trained on them. Noam Chomsky has clarified the moral stakes in provocative, instructive terms: “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ”

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Five Ethics Observations On The Redskins Trademark Decision

Washington-Redskins

1. Several commenters predicted that the ruling of the U.S. Patent Office cancelling the registered trademark of the Washington Redskins would warrant a “Kaboom!” here, the Ethics Alarms designation reserved for occurrences or statements so outrageous that they make my head explode. Please. Even pre-weakened by previous cranial fireworks, my head isn’t that unstable. The decision was neither a major surprise, nor was it as momentous as the ignoramuses in the media, social media, and Harry Reid pronounced it to be.  (More on the decision here.) The Redskins retain their federal trademark registrations until all appeals have been exhausted, and that process could take years. The registrations will be canceled only if the team loses all appeals, and if I were owner Dan Snyder, I would appeal up to the Supreme Court if I had to. This should be done not to preserve the Redskins name, which is archaic and at this point more trouble than its worth, but to beat back the forces of government censorship of thought and words, of which the anti-Redskins campaign is a significant, if relatively trivial, part.

2. Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins, not a fan of the name, beat me to a column about what is really troubling about the decision, as she wrote… Continue reading

Ethics Note To The Sports Media Regarding Their Coverage of Michael Sam: SHUT UP!

Sam

Ever since University of Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam made the announcement that he is gay, sports writers, broadcasters and columnists have been hailing his courage, bashing his detractors, and pointing with derision to the portion of social media buzz that has revealed the nation’s ugly homophobic side. The irony is that it is the mostly positive media obsession with Sam’s status as a potential trailblazer, rather than the antigay hate-mongers, who diminish Sam’s chances of success with their every word. This is obvious, or should be, yet the articles and rants keep on coming. I have to believe that it is a case of sports journalists engaging in the ultimate hypocrisy, making themselves look fair, unbigoted and devoted to the cause of full gay inclusion in American life (all while making their deadlines) while simultaneously and knowingly undermining the athlete they claim to be supporting. They have to shut up, or Sam is doomed.

Which means, unfortunately, that Sam is doomed….and that means that this episode, rather than advancing the cause of gay athletes, will be a serious setback for them instead. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: W.G. Hamm

“What I know about Lance Armstrong is that he inspired thousands of cancer victims and made their lives better. What I know about Mr. Armstrong is that when my wife and my son were both suffering from cancer, his story and his book helped them cope with their diseases. What I know about Mr. Armstrong is that the good that he did far outweighs the fact that he was trapped in a culture of drug use within the cycling fraternity. What I know about Mr. Armstrong is that he has been needlessly demonized by people who do not realize the balance between his good deeds and his bad deeds.”

—-W. G. Hamm, in his Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post. Hamm was praising a fatuous, rationalization-riddled  column by Post sportswriter Sally Jenkins in which she catalogued and endorsed every excuse and justification trotted out by Armstrong’s enablers and defenders.

would have loved Vlad.

W. G. would have loved Vlad.

I don’t know W.G. Hamm. I’m sure he’s the salt of the earth, and a part of me is queasy about picking on his letter praising Jenkins’ ridiculous column rather than tackling the truly ethically offensive and brain-dead column itself. One reason is that I have written extensively, frequently and recently about the arguments, if you can call them that, made by Jenkins. Her column really is spectacularly bad; here’s one passage that send me to the bathroom, for example:

“Maybe I’m not angry at Lance because for two decades now I’ve had serious questions about the wisdom and fairness of the “anti-doping” effort, which consists of criminalizing and demonizing athletes for what boils down to using medications without a prescription.”

No, it boils down to using medications without a prescription and using them to cheat in athletic contests for money and fame, while defrauding the public, you silly, dishonest woman. Continue reading