Morality—principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour; ethics, rights and wrongs, correctness, virtue, goodness, good behaviour, righteousness, morals, principles, honesty, integrity, justice, fair play, justness, decency, purity, blamelessness. Morality is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are “good” and those that are “bad.” The philosophy of morality is ethics.
“Politics have no relation to morals,” said deceased Niccolò di Bernardo, an Italian diplomat, politician and historian. Years later, former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago Basdeo Panday said, “Politics has a morality of its own.”
Now look around, listen, read, observe the sporting world and tell me whether you think sports has a morality of its own.
Professional athletes are known for their unequivocal talent, their leadership, their paycheques and occasionally their affinity for trouble. Over the past few years, stories regarding competitors involved in performance-enhancing drug use, gambling, cheating, breaking rules and even violent behaviour have become more common. And not to be left out, the officials and administrators, both abroad and locally, are now making the lists.
Athletes, especially male athletes, have been – and always will be – at the center of media attention. Many believe the reason athletes seem to commit so much crime is due to the vast amount of media coverage and the large percentage of the population worldwide following them.
Since more people are subjected to this bombardment of reported athlete crime, many think that the rate has gone up. Media has changed since the establishment of professional sports. With the addition of television and the internet, information spreads much faster and to a larger volume of people. A factor that could play a legitimate role in altering the rate of crime among athletes is the change in personality of athletes over time.
Athletes used to be viewed as model citizens and gentlemen and ladies who entertained the public. Now, a new breed of competitor that seems to not hold the same moral standards has arisen.
Another explanation for crime has to do with fame. The professional athletic world teaches children to strive for attention and make headlines rather than play the sport. Attempts at getting back into the spotlight sometimes result in crime. Sometimes, now more than in the past, the same athletes and officials who lack strong moral values or character are the ones sadly placed before us to be followed and supported.
We want our youngsters to develop strong characters. But we don’t want them to merely have strong characters; we want them to have good characters. A person with good character possesses virtue, which is a disposition to act in a particular way. Are we getting that today? Look around in your communities, at national and international sporting levels.
Virtue is not just about action, it is also intellect and emotion. That is, a person with good character, a virtuous person, acts from good reasons and strong passions. We are told that this is what we are getting or this is what is before us. Some of the persons we look to for this are presented to us in the most ideal way. What you see is what you’re gonna get, we are told. But what do we get? Again, does sport now has a morality of its own?
Sport is an arena in which moral development can occur. It is among the main reasons why we follow sport, why we play it, why we get involved whether on or off the field. It is why we encourage the young ones to participate. Such development happens by way of both imitation and initiation. A child learns how to play football, cricket, athletics or badminton by imitating those who are good at the sport. Similarly, a child can learn how to be virtuous by imitating those who are morally good. At the same time, those who are not morally ideal are also influencing the next generation. Initiation is important as well. The experienced practitioner, whether of football or morality, will provide an example of what it is to excel and initiate the young into the proper habits of the practice. Children need to be encouraged to be committed to sports as moral practices, which means that they will play the sport as it ought to be played rather than in immoral ways.
This is something that every parent, sporting official, academy founder, sporting club director, coach, trainer, you name it, needs to take serious consideration of, either in their current positions or if they are thinking about taking on responsibilities or entails some aspects of what I’ve mentioned here. We owe it to sports and we owe it to our people.
And if we can’t look at ourselves in the mirror or look our children in their faces and guarantee the right ethics and strong moral standards, values, principles and character, then we should step down or don’t even think about getting involved.
We have got to remember that traditions, including the traditions in sports, are ultimately under our control.
Sports is what we make it: fun, competitive, demanding and a place where strong and good character can be formed, displayed, and reinforced. Just do the right thing!