Ethics in Sport

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

What Is It

Once upon a time, student athletes were students first, athletes second; the Olympics was about amateurism and the pursuit of excellence, not the pursuit of endorsements; and professional athletes enhanced the physics through rigorous work-outs, not through performance enhancing substances. No doubt athletic excellence is at an all time high, but are ethics in athletics at an all time low? John and Ken explore ethics in sport with Myles Brand, President of the NCAA.

Listening Notes

Why should ethics be important to sports? There are two dimensions to ethics in sports: the ideal and the effect on society. Ken introduces the guest, Myles Brand, president of the NCAA. Hegel thought war promoted certain virtues and William James thought sports promoted those same virtues in a more moral way. Brand thinks that that misses the benefits of sports. What is it about sports that draws us in so much? 

The British had a notion of amateurs in sports that played an important role in society. Brand says that notion has an important link to the NCAA. Amateur athletes are supposed to have some other occupation as a their main goal besides sports. Do student athletes sacrifice their studies to become top athletes? Brand says there are limits on the amount of weekly practice time and that many athletes are also top students. Brand thinks that the tendency for student athletes to view their sports as the center of their college days is a large problem. Some sports have a higher than average graduation rate, but some sports, such as basketball, have significantly lower than average graduation rates. 

John asks Brand how he would integrate sports if he were to design society from the ground up. Brand points out that Plato's philosopher kings were supposed to actively engage in sports. Brand thinks the inclusion of sports in American collegiate life is both unique and beneficial to students. Brand emphasizes the importance of distinguishing the sport from the players and the level of the sport, e.g. college, pro, etc. Women's involvement in sports has increased dramatically recently. What effect has this had on college sports? What reforms should be enacted on sports in college? Brand thinks that the diversity in sports institutions contributes to helping athletes find their places. 

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 04:30): Amy Standen interviews the Frank Deford, NPR commentator, about what we get out of watching sports.