Fire Kelly Ripa

LIVE-with-Kelly-and-Michael-TV-show-on-ABC-renewal

On Tuesday of this week, ABC announced that Michael Strahan, the former NFL player who successfully replaced old pro Regis Philbin on the evolving franchise that was once “Regis and Kathy Lee,” was being promoted to the flagship of ABC’s morning lineup, and would leave “Live: Kelly and Michael” in September to become a co-anchor on “Good Morning America.”

For whatever reason, ABC botched the maneuver, failing to let Strahan’s co-host, Kelly Ripa, know about the change until it was announced publicly.

Ripa was angry and insulted, as well as stunned to lose her partner of four years without warning or the courtesy of an explanation. She decided to show her displeasure by skipping work, which is a non-no for a live TV show.  She called in “sick”  before the  Wednesday’s edition of “Live,” and is apparently on a mini-strike for the rest of the week at least. Some sources say that she will refuse to return to her eponymous show until Strahan, whom she now regards as a betrayer, moves on.

ABC pays Ripa a reported $20 million per year, $36,000.00 per episode, and $818.00 per minute of airtime to charmingly babble away an hour of the mid-morning, seldom uttering a memorable thought or witticism. She should fall down on her knees and worship at ABC’s executives’ feet for this boon. They own her, and they don’t really ask much: all she has to do is keep her mentally squishy audience happy, do what she’s told, and show up….and cash a lot of checks. Yes, ABC was tardy in telling her that she was going to have to find a new co-host. Bad ABC. That does not excuse or justify Ripa’s unprofessional breach of her employment contract. Continue reading

Loyalty Drama: The Strange, Sudden, Ethical, Unethical Retirement Of White Sox First Baseman Adam LaRoche

chi-adam-laroche

Yesterday,  baseball’s Spring Training was shaken when Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche unexpectedly announced that he was retiring, effectively giving up his guaranteed 13 million dollar salary. LaRoche had suffered a down year in 2015, but he was healthy, and assured of a place in the ChiSox line-up. The reason for the precipitous decision was mysteriously and ominously reported as caused by a “personal matter.”  Was there dire illness in the family? What would make a healthy athlete walk away from his team mates and so much money?

Today, the club revealed the surprisng answer. Last year, LaRoche’s son, Drake, 14, spent most of the season with his father and the team and even had his own locker in the home clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field. Drake was with also with the team in this year’s spring training. White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams told LaRoche that he would have to limit the amount of time his son spent in the clubhouse this season, and in response, LaRoche announced he was quitting.

Again, the threshold question to so much ethical analysis is crucial: What’s going on here?
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Pssst! CNN! Don Lemon Was Drunk On The Job On New Years Eve, And It Matters

Drunk Lemon

The news media and social media apparently thinks its funny that CNN’s Don Lemon, one of the network’s hosts of the New Year’s dawning, an unexpected event about as newsworthy as the sun coming up, was not only drunk as a skunk most of the night but didn’t seem to care who knew it.

I think the yearly breathless coverage of the Times Square festivities is boring, dumb and stupid (People keep saying they are so excited. What are they excited about? If a big ugly ball doing exactly what you knew it would do at midnight really excites you, your life has run off the road into a muddy ditch, and I pity you), so I only cruised by the CNN coverage around 10 PM. Lemon co-hosted the network’s New Year’s Eve special with correspondent Brooke Baldwin at Tipitina’s bar in New Orleans., and had that look in his eyes and that tone in his voice that I know too well. This surprised me, but I didn’t feel like beginning 2016 with a train wreck, so I decided to watch “Rain Man” with my wife, who had never seen it. (We haven’t been invited to a New Years Eve party since 1982.)

By all accounts, Lemon was indeed smashed, and left his judgment, manners and good sense in those cups of champagne, beer and heaven knows what else he was guzzling all night. Some of the evidence, other than how he looked and sounded, which was plenty… Continue reading

The Aftermath: Final Observations On The Papelbon-Harper Incident

Jonathan Papelbon in another career highlight...

Jonathan Papelbon in another career highlight…

More on the aftermath of the incident that has the baseball world talking and the sports ethics world cogitating…

1) The Nationals punished the right player, suspending reliever Papelbon for four games, which combined with the three games the league suspended him for intentionally throwing at a player in an earlier game, ends his season in embarrassing fashion. The four lost games will cost the closer about $280,000 in salary, and his total loss, with the additional three games, will be close to a half-million dollars.

2) The word out of the Nationals clubhouse is that many players agree that Harper was dogging it to first base (the impetus for the criticism that started the fight) and that Papelbon was within his rights to call Harper on his lack of hustle. This indicates that Papelbon was reacting to a perceived lack of leadership on the team. In fact, the team does lack leadership, as manager Matt Williams is neither respected nor listened to, and this was one of the reasons the heavily favored Nats collapsed down the pennant stretch. Thus it seems that Papelbon, a recent acquisition who was new to the Nats culture, may have been trying to fill a leadership vacuum and botched it. Still, he engaged in his unethical conduct for an ethical reason; that only places him in “the ends justify the means” territory, however.

Moreover, any team whose leader is Jonathan Papelbon is in big, big trouble.

3) Incredibly, manager Matt Williams, who left Papelbon in the game after the fight to pitch the ninth and get clobbered, claimed that he wouldn’t have done so if he was aware of what happened. Williams said that he was at the other end of the dugout, and didn’t understand the import of the commotion that had players shouting and separating two combatants, including his best player and his current pitcher. Wow.  The Nats dugout isn’t that long. He wasn’t curious? Didn’t he feel, as the man in charge, a need to investigate? Worse still, none of his coaches felt that he needed to be informed, even considering that this was happening in full view of the fans and TV cameras.  Continue reading

An Unethical Photo And Caption, And The Ethics Fog Of A Baseball Fight

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals is grabbed by Jonathan Papelbon #58 in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on September 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 538595765 ORIG FILE ID: 490330798

According to USA Today and many other reputable news sources, Washington Nationals pitcher Jonathan Papelbon “choked” team mate Bryce Harper in a dugout altercation in full view of fans and TV cameras during yesterday’s loss to the Phillidelphia Phillies. The photo above, freezing the moment in which Papelbon’s hand touched Harper’s neck, was presented full page width in the Nats’ home town paper, the Washington Post.

Now here’s the video:

Papelbon’s hand was on Harper’s throat for less than a second, as opposed to the impression given by the still, in which you can almost hear Harper gagging ACK! GAH! LLLLGGGGHHH!  The USA Today headline “Bryce Harper was choked by Jonathan Papelbon in Nationals’ dugout fight” is pure sensationalism and an intentional misrepresentation. I’m not even certain Papelbon was trying to choke Harper, but if he was, he failed immediately because Harper backed away.

This incident transcends its context for ethical interest, because it demonstrates how much context and biases influence public and media assessments of right and wrong.

First, some context: Continue reading

Baylor, The Rapist, And The King’s Pass

crownThe King’s Pass is among the most corrosive of the many unethical rationalizations. Also known as “The Star Syndrome,” this conduct and this sensibility rots organizations, large and small, public and private. It destroys trust and undermines loyalty and performance. The rationalization, which essentially holds that the enforcement of laws, rules and policies should be withheld against the most powerful, the most popular, the most accomplished and the most productive members of an organization on the theory that they are too valuable to lose, is essentially un-American, defying the national principle that all are created equal, and that the laws apply with equal force to everyone, large and small. The King’s Pass isn’t driven by ethics, but by non-ethical considerations overcoming ethics. An organization that jettisons a star will often suffer itself. Management may be criticized, and the sports team, the institution, company, government agency—or nation— that loses its star might suffer substantially with the removal of a significant asset. Yet not insisting on accountability from a misbehaving or even corrupt “star” will have far worse consequences over time.

Sam Ukwuachu, a former freshman All-American at Boise State University before transferring to play football at Baylor University, was convicted this week of sexually assaulting a former Baylor soccer player in 2013. Jurors in Waco’s 54th State District Court found the 22-year-old Baylor defensive end guilty of one count of sexual assault, but it was the revelation of Baylor’s cover-up that ought to resonate.
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Tales of “The King’s Pass”: Pete Rose and Jeremy Clarkson

King

The King’s Pass has been much in the ethics news of late—Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly, David Petraeus, Hillary. Let’s review, shall we?

11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.  In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others…

1. The BBC just demonstrated how the King’s Pass should be rejected—with courage and gusto.

Jeremy Clarkson, the main host of the popular BBC auto show “Top Gear,” spent March misbehaving. He got in a shoving match with a producer, verbally abused staff and was recorded trashing the network. When Clarkson topped it off with a physical altercation with a show staffer, the BBC decided not to renew his contract. BBC head Tony Hall said in a statement:

It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts…I take no pleasure in doing so. I am only making [the facts] public so people can better understand the background. I know how popular the programme is and I know that this decision will divide opinion. The main facts are not disputed by those involved.

The BBC is a broad church…We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price. Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion. A member of staff – who is a completely innocent party – took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature. For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations… Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position. This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC. I have always personally been a great fan of his work and “Top Gear”…The BBC must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016. This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise. I have asked Kim Shillinglaw [Controller of BBC Two] to look at how best we might take this forward over the coming months. I have also asked her to look at how we put out the last programmes in the current series.

The show, without Clarkson, is toast, and Hall knows it. Nonetheless, he had the guts to do the necessary and ethical act: not allowing its indispensable star to abuse his power and popularity . Once Clarkson did that, “Top Gear” was doomed anyway; firing him now just minimizes the carnage. Although Hall has no responsibility to other networks and organizations, his decisive handling of the episode has saved other programs even as it destroys his own. It is a precedent and a role model for employers refusing to allow themselves to be turned into enablers  by stars assuming the King’s Pass works. When they say, “You can’t fire me, I’m irreplaceable! There’s no show without me!”, the response now can be, per the BBC: “If there’s no show without a jerk like you, then there’s no show. Bye!”

2. Once again, Pete Rose is sucking the ethics right out of people’s brains.

Ah, Pete Rose. He was the topic of the first ethics post I ever wrote, way back in 2004. Then, in 2007, he became my first and only Ethics Dunce Emeritus.

The Pete Rose case is simple. Baseball has an absolute, no exceptions rule that demands a lifetime ban of any player, coach or manager who gambles on major league baseball games. Such banned players can’t be hired by major league teams for any purpose, and cannot be considered for Hall of Fame membership., ever, even after they are dead. Everyone in baseball knows why this rule exists—baseball was nearly destroyed in 1919 when gamblers bribed the Chicago White Sox to throw the World Series—and the rule is posted in every clubhouse. Rose bet on baseball while a major league manager, and also bet on his own team. Thus he is banned.

The significance of the fact that he is, as a player, the all-time hits leader and was the face of the game is that it led Rose to believe that the game would never ban him, and that if caught, he would be treated with special leniency. His excellence on the playing field doesn’t mitigate his conduct, or justify minimizing the ban it earned, at all.

The New York Times published a story about Rose’s efforts to get baseball to lift the ban, now that a new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, is in office. You can read the article here, which is remarkable for the many jaw-droppingly unethical arguments put forth by the baseball people the article quotes, contrasted with the occasional quote that shows that a speaker comprehends the concepts of consequences, accountability, and why letting stars break the rules is suicidal to any culture. It would be an excellent ethics exam.

Here are the quotes; my comments follow in bold. Continue reading

Musings On The Clarence Thomas Affair and Insideous, Unavoidable, Rationalization Eleven

If you are good enough and valuable enough, do you deserve one of these?

If you are good enough and valuable enough, do you deserve one of these?

A recent—and off-topic—comment caused me to begin thinking about “The King’s Pass,” #11 on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization hit parade,and perhaps the most perplexing of them all. The commenter referenced the 2010 discovery that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had inexplicably neglected to mention his activist wife’s annual income on his annual financial disclosure filings, meaning that he had filed a false affidavit and violated the law. Thomas claimed that he had made a careless mistake—for five years—and the matter was allowed to drop except for the angry agitating of the Anti-Clarence Thomas Furies, who are constantly searching for any way to get a conservative black justice off the Supreme Court short of assassination.

The episode had left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was happy to be reminded of it, bad mouth tastes being essential to triggering ethics alarms. I went back to read my post on the matter, and sure enough, I had followed the principle of rejecting The King’s Pass, and asserted that Thomas should be punished appropriately and formally…but that really ducked the question. Lawyers have lost their licenses to practice for single episodes of swearing to false information when it was far more obvious that a mistake had been made than in Thomas’s case, as when a hapless Maryland lawyer carelessly signed a legal document that had misrecorded  his address. The logic of this no-tolerance ruling was that a lawyer, above all people, should never swear to a falsehood, and that doing so, even once, was a serious breach of duty calling into question his fitness to practice law. I think the penalty for this particular act was excessive—it is cited locally as a cautionary tale—but I agree with its underlying principle, which should apply with even more vigor when the lawyer in question is a judge, and not merely a judge, but a Supreme Court Justice.
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Triple Crown Ethics: New York Racing Gets An Integrity Check

affirmed.1The best example of the ethical problem with the Star Syndrome, the expedient and destructive compromise organizations make to allow a high-level performer break rules and indulge in conduct that would not be tolerated in other employees, that I have seen in a long time involves…a horse.

California Chrome has won the first two races in the Triple Crown, with only the Belmont Stakes remaining. Horse racing hasn’t had a Triple Crown winner in decades, and has suffered as a result; everyone is rooting for its latest star to finally achieve the heights last reached by Affirmed in 1978. But CC used a nasal strip in his last six races, all victories, and while the devices, which aid breathing, are allowed by the racing rules of all states but one, New York, home of the Belmont, is the one. The owners of the horse say they may not run him if he isn’t allowed to use the strip (they are almost certainly bluffing, but its a good bluff); a request for an exception is pending.

The ethics here is simple as pie. If its a valid rule, then no exception should be made just because the horse in question is on the verge of making history. If it was an arbitrary rule, it should have been eliminated before now.  If the stewards allow California Chrome to use the strip because, well, he’s a big shot and it will be a shot in the arm for racing, but then go back to prohibiting ordinary horses to use it, that will be an outright rejection of fairness and integrity (not that this will be news flash for racing critics.).

If the rule was a good one in the first place, then it should apply to California Chrome. Waiving it just for him is favoritism, and unethical.

That, however, is exactly what will happen. Watch.

 

Yet Another Consequentialism Lesson From Baseball

It's for your own good, kid.

It’s for your own good, kid.

Consequentialism is the ethical fallacy of  judging an action right or wrong according to its ultimate effects, which are unknowable at the time the decision is made. This is, essentially, the equivalent of a “the ends justify the means” philosophy applied as a backward-looking tautology: if the end result turns out to be desirable, then it  justifies the means and the act was ethical. If the ends are undesirable, then the conduct was wrong unethical. People do tend to think to think this way, which is why decisions that don’t work out are frequently called mistakes. Conduct is not a mistake, however, if it was the best possible decision at the time, arrived at logically and according to sound principles.

Sports, and particularly baseball, reinforce the adoption of consequentialism, which is one way sports can make people stupid….especially sportswriters, who love to second-guess managers, players and coaches by using hindsight bias: it’s easy to pronounce a decision a mistake once you already know its results. Easy, and unfair.

On Saturday afternoon, Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams punished his 21-year-old star outfielder Bryce Harper for not running hard to first base on a ground ball tapper back to the pitcher in the top of the sixth inning. The punishment Williams levied was Old School: Williams benched the young player—just like Joe Cronin did to Ted Williams in 1939 and 1940–sending the message that either you hustle and play hard, or you don’t play, no matter how good you are. This is his duty as a manager, a leader, a mentor and a teacher, and it makes a vital statement to the entire team. Continue reading