Football, Ethics and CSR?

It’s autumn and for many people in the States, that means football season has started. I’m actually a fan of the sport as it’s a nice distraction from my normal work life, well that’s until the Patriots spy story broke last week. It appears to me that we tolerate a lot more cheating and potentially unethical behavior in a sports or “games” than we do in corporate America, although college and professional sports are very big business.

On almost every play in football you could argue that at least one player is “cheating” or breaking the rules, such as holding an opponent. If you are really good, you can get away with breaking the rules without being noticed by the game official and this gives you and your team a slight advantage. Or, how many times have we seen a punter exaggerate when an opposing player bumps into them, in hopes of inducing a penalty for “roughing the kicker”. Not necessarily against the rules but could you argue unethical(?) We seem as a society to be more tolerant of breaking the rules when it benefits the team versus solely the individual, and even some teams like the Oakland Raiders portray an image that they break the rules and this “bad boy” image is upheld by their fans.

The challenge here seems to be that in sports we tolerate certain types of behavior because they are considered part of the game. The general attitude seems to be do what you need to win, but don’t get caught doing something that hurts the team. I think the behavioral expectations for employees are clearer in business than in professional sports, but maybe I’m just biased. What do you think?

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