7/28: Sports Ethics

July 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Baseball, Featured, Sports

This season there have been an increasing number of empty seats at major league ballparks, and the television audience continues to decrease. Could baseball have finally out-priced itself for most fans? And, are ethics compromised when it comes to sports?  The Marist Poll’s John Sparks discusses these issues with Richard Lapchick, Founder and Director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics In Sport at the University of Central Florida.

Dr. Richard Lapchick

Dr. Richard Lapchick

John Sparks
Rich, 54% of the American public tell us they do not follow baseball at all as a national past time. Why do you think that is?

Listen to Part 1 of the Interview:

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Dr. Richard Lapchick
Well, John, to be honest with you, when I hear the number 54% don’t, that means 46% do. To me that’s a substantial amount of people. I’m not sure if more than 55 or 60% of the public will say they’re great sports fans and that follow any particular sport, so I’m not sure that that tells us that baseball has a smaller following. I think that 40 is almost half of the people say they follow baseball, that’s pretty substantial.

John Sparks
Now I watch games this year, and seen a lot of empty seats. We’ve heard complaints about high ticket prices, concessions, parking, and we’ve seen multimillion dollar player salaries; yet, as I said, attendance seems to be down. Could it be that the American public feels that there’s just much too greed in baseball?

Dr. Richard Lapchick
Well I don’t have any doubt, John, that the public that if they rationally compared the salaries of teachers and teachers who are being laid off in huge numbers around the country in the recession to the kinds of contracts that are signed in baseball and now with the NBA’s free agency, you can pretty much pick the sport, it’s true in all sports, that the public would say, “Yes, the dollars being spent in baseball or in any other sport are enormous.” And I think that perhaps a bigger factor, however, because that never really affected fans coming to games before, I think the biggest factor here is we’re having a lot of people who are baseball fans and fans of other sports who are deeply affected by the economy and simply can’t afford to go to the games.

John Sparks
Undoubtedly. I read an article this week in the paper, the Nokona Leather Company in Texas, it’s the only place in the United States now where baseball gloves are made. All others are made where labor is cheap overseas. This gets into our economic situation. I’m just wondering this picture of people working for pennies to make the tools of the trade for players who make millions, what does that say about us as a nation?

Dr. Richard Lapchick
Well outsourcing our manufacturing process is hardly limited to baseball, basketball, and football. This is something that has plagued the American economy and the American worker for more than two decades now. I think everybody here would prefer that these things were produced in the United States. I think the reality of the economy is under capitalism, we’re going to go wherever we can produce the products cheaper, and the cheap labor doesn’t exist in the United States as it is overseas.

John Sparks
Rich, let’s talk about college sports. We now have a Big 12 Conference that has 10 teams and a Big Ten Conference which has 12 teams because of the switches being made by universities that are seeking more money, better television contracts. How out of hand has college football become? There’s just tremendous need for money, money, money.

Listen to Part 2:

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Dr. Richard Lapchick
Well I think recent switches of a few teams in college sport, which of course was anticipated there’d be much bigger switches in the Big 12 Conference, might actually evaporate. I think it was one more explanation point on the generally accepted assumption that college sport has become a big business in the United States and decisions are made on how much money is going to be spent and how much money’s going to be earned by college sports much more than the competitive nature of the games.

John Sparks
Well I know that colleges, like everyone else, they’re hard strapped for money and they of course see Division I athletics as being a good source of income. But have we out priced our tickets for major college sports? Is there a point where folks will say, “Enough’s enough”?

Dr. Richard Lapchick
Well there’s definitely going to be a place where people say that “I can’t afford it and I’m not going to take my family of four to see Kentucky play because I just can’t afford the tickets anymore,” but there are of course those hard-core fans and corporate dollars are filling skyboxes and driving the industry not only in college sport but in professional sports also and I think that — I think to predict what’s happening is difficult under this — under these economic circumstances. I think if this continues after the recession and fans stay away and fans don’t go to games and don’t buy licensed products, et cetera, then I think we’ll realize that the drive for money above all else has cost us the most beloved part of or the part of the beloved nature of sports is we have people who play the sports and people who are fans of those who play the sports.

John Sparks
Is this pressure to make more money the reason why a lot of college coaches and university officials will keep students on their teams after they’ve been arrested for criminal behavior?

Dr. Richard Lapchick
Well I think coaches want to win. They realize that they’re going to play better, so they’re going to have more chances either to increase their contracts and have a little more longevity at a particular place or get a better job at a different place, so there are coaches who will turn a blind eye to what I think is a terrible situation. Especially in the cases of domestic violence when an athlete gets an act of sexual aggression against a woman, I think that’s the one set of circumstances where there should be an automatic banning of the players for at least a certain period of time and we see players banned for other things. I think the most egregious thing that men do in this society is batter women, not just athletes. I don’t think athletes do it in disproportionate numbers, but I think when they do there should be consequences for it.

John Sparks
Rich, you head up the Institute for Ethics and Diversity in Sports. Can you tell our listeners what the Institute is and some of the things that it does?

Listen to Part 3:

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Dr. Richard Lapchick
John, we publish 24 studies a year and try to generate an average of a book a year on things that we think are — where there’s missing information in sport. We published a racial and gender report card which analyzes the hiring practices in the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and all college sport. We’re adding this year the U.S. Tennis Association. We do a report card for the Associated Press affiliated newspapers and dot-com sites, about 405 papers in the country, on who is — who are our editors, copyeditors, writers, and columnists in our major papers and dot-com sites. Do graduation rate studies. Do Division 1A programs around the country, break them down by race and sport. We also do the hiring report card for the Black Coaches Association and Women’s Basketball, Men’s Division 1 football and athletic — Division 1 athletic directors.

John Sparks
Rich, it’s always a pleasure talking to you, appreciate your time today.

Comments

4 Responses to “7/28: Sports Ethics”

  1. Fahrrad Liebhaber on July 29th, 2010 4:36 am

    Thanks for this article/interview. I really hope the ballparks will be visited again by more fans very soon. Sports need fans, atmosphere and enthusiasm.

    Best wishes and have a good day!

  2. Puyol fan site on August 31st, 2010 8:02 am

    The sexual aggression against a woman, I think that’s the one set of circumstances where there should be an automatic banning of the players for at least a certain period

  3. reflective essay on September 29th, 2010 2:51 am

    It’s great to see good information being shared. I really like the video Thanks for the info.

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  4. Andy on January 29th, 2011 9:36 am

    Baseball seems to me like the equivalent of Cricket here in the UK. It is just not as exciting to watch as for example soccer or rugby, so thats maybe why sports like Basketball are more popular to go and watch. Is watching someone throw a ball and then someone trying to hit it with a bat and then run around in a circle really that fun to watch?

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