Concepts of Ethics

Imagine that you are an athletic director at a university. Rumors start circulating one weekend that one of your star basketball players is being investigated for sexual misconduct with a minor. The player is 18, and the girl is 16 and the player’s neighbor. You are not sure how to proceed; right now, the accusation has not been substantiated.

• Should the player be suspended based on the allegation? • Would it be fair to punish the whole team and the fans by taking this talented player out

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of the lineup and thus risking the team’s chances of getting in the playoff? As part of your decision making, you most likely would wonder what should take precedence: rules, the needs of the individual player and alleged victim, the needs of constituents, or principles of right and wrong. These considerations are often in conflict and are difficult to reconcile. Fortunately, ethical theories can provide a foundation for ethical decision making. Although certain well-known ethical theories have definite applications in the world of sport, most did not originate in a sport context. One of the first ethical theories—utilitarianism—was developed by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill in the 1800s . According to this theory, ethical decisions should be made with an emphasis on what benefits the greatest number of people. Other theories center on right over wrong, following rules and principles, or sociocultural norms. As a future leader tasked with ethical decisions for yourself and others, an understanding of these various theories will aid you in your decision making and help you aid others as well.

• Compare similarities and differences between major theoretical concepts of ethics (e.g., deontology versus teleology) using personal and sport examples.

• Compare at least five theories with corresponding examples.

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