Friday, January 11, 2013

Business ethics, professional sports teams, values, and acting like role models for young people: Yes, Redskins's coach Shanahan should be fired


Back in 2003, I actually designed a certification test for Brainbench on “business ethics”, as one of my “smaller” interim jobs.

I think we’ve seen a big fracture in “ethics” in professional sports recently.  Yes, that’s the sorry spectacle Sunday when the Washington Redskins allowed their start rookie quarterback to remain in the game against the Seattle Seahawks on January 6 after he had obviously reinjured his knee late in the first quarter. 

The Redskins led 14-0 after the first quarter, and after the injury, the Seakhawks scored 24 unanswered points, 11 of them in the final quarter. 

Even to a novice like me, it was obvious that Griffin could not perform by the time the third quarter started.  Miraculously, the Redskins still led 14-13 after three quarters.  There seems little doubt that the Redskins would have had a good chance to win the game had Kirk Cousins been put in for the second half.
But winning the game isn’t the issue.  The Redskins coaching and management has failed to protect the well-being of its players, and jeopardized the future signing of more promising players. Mike Shanahan’s conduct of the matter approaches abuse.  He should lose his job over this.

What’s more perplexing is that Shanahan must have known about the careful treatment that the Washington Nationals (a few miles away on the new Anacostia waterfront), who had also won a divisional MLB NL East title in 2012, regarding their prize young pitcher Stephen Strasburg, recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The Nationals management knows that signing and keeping key players for consecutive seasons means protecting their well-being and taking care of injuries properly.  The Nats shut down Strasburg even when he thought he could pitch, and were properly concerned about his mechanics late in the season even in some games that he had won, even if less convincingly (such as a game in August in Arizona). 

Sports teams also face ethical issues in managing their playing fields.  The Redskins were criticized for poor field condition at Fed-Ex field, increasing the likelihood of injury.  A Nationals catcher, Wilson Ramos, had a season-ending knee injury in Cincinnati last season because of field problems. 

The treatment of players by professional sports teams sends a message to young people, especially young men, about our values.  Shanahan acted like a Wall Street broker selling bad mortgages, going for short-term gain and that backfired.  This is not a value system that matches our need to think about sustainability and the well being a future generations.  
For the story on the new Reebok and MC10 technology to track concussive injury in sports, see the latest story at Engadger, here. The idea that young men and boys were supposed to put themselves on the line just "for the team" and risk lifetime dependency and disability was a major controversy when I was growing up.  No, I didn't want to play football.  To be overly protective of the physical self (for boys) was considered "sissy" or "cowardly" in the 1950s.  

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