What Is Ethics in Sports?

Ethics in sports is principally displayed in fairness and responsibility. If an athlete wants fans to perceive him as ethical, he must display these qualities both on and off the field.

Fairness is generally shown by refraining from seeking a competitive advantage that circumvents the rules of the sport. An example of unfairness is a baseball player who attempts to use a corked bat or who improperly applies pine tar to a bat hoping that referees might not notice the infraction. Steroid and performance-enhancing drug use is another common example of unfairness in sport. Referees must also show ethics by applying rules equally to all participants, without bias or pressure from the audience.

Responsibility on the field can be demonstrated by not blaming outside factors, such as a referee, for one's failure. A notable example of showing irresponsibility was the New Orleans Saints players' nonrefusal to accept under-the-table payments as a reward for injuring specific players in the NFL bounty scandal. Athletes must also demonstrate responsibility by maintaining good conduct off the field, without the belief that they are exempt from the laws followed by common people. Teams and clubs similarly show ethics by making the decision to not employ someone who ignores moral responsibility, even if his athletic ability is tempting.