Integrity in Professional Sports

In how people learn, integrity on November 27, 2010 at 12:55 pm

football[Integrity in other contexts:] This post does not directly relate to online teaching or how people learn. However, I’m a sports fan and I teach a sports marketing law course, so I’m going to create a connection here (whether one exists or not!)

The Denver Broncos were fined for illegally videotaping a portion of the 49ers October 30 practice, before the two teams were to meet. Why is that noteworthy? It’s noteworthy because Josh McDaniels, the Broncos’ coach, was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots during the years that Belichick, coach of the Patriots, regularly videotaped others teams. In addition, shortly after Belichick’s fine and loss of draft picks, Bob Kraft, owner of the team, signed Belichick to a long term contract deal.

How does this relate to integrity? Rules violations are normally interpreted to violate ethical principles relating to fairness and the duty to follow the law (depending on which ethical approach you take). If the NFL rules prohibit videotaping other teams’ practices and prohibit videotaping coaching signals during the game, those who do not play by the rules can gain a competitive advantage by their breach of those rules.  (See this rules’ summary in Mayer v. Belichick) This also means that the owner’s support of the conduct can help create an environment that rules violations are acceptable as long as the team wins [and the violations are not caught for a long time].

How does this relate to how people learn? People learn, in part, by following the examples that their leaders set. The NFL’s policy has teeth only to the extent that those who violate those rules are subject to punishment that are sufficient to deter the conduct. In addition, the NFL’s policy has teeth only to the extent that the NFL can negate the lesson taught to assistants (e.g. McDaniels) who learn from coaches (e.g. Belichick) and owners (e.g. Kraft) that ethics violations do not matter as long as the team wins.

In this instance, the videotaping was done by a member of the Bronco’s staff who, apparently, told McDaniels and McDaniels refused to watch the videotape. However, the NFL rules require reporting of  such conduct and McDaniels did not. If you assume that McDaniels did not watch the videotape, at the very least he did violate the NFL rules. However, the lessons he learned from the leadership of his prior team did not demonstrate integrity for that particular rule and thus McDaniels seemed to follow that similar rule-ignoring approach.

[Relationship to this blog and its topics: ]If we’re trying to encourage learners to act with integrity, it’s difficult and frustrating when those in the public eye do not also do so. And that’s this post’s connection to integrity and how people learn.

  1. […] I find something so interesting that I discuss it in my blog, even though it's not directly related to teaching. Then again, I teach sports marketing law, so arguably this article fits into all those […]

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