Ethical Issues in Sports Management

by Sara Higley; Updated September 26, 2017
Steriod use is a major ethical issue facing sport managers.

Sports management is a term that encompasses professional sports, collegiate sports, recreational sports, and health and fitness. Because it covers so many aspects of the sports industry, many ethical issues arise. Part of every sport manager's job is to make sure he is acting in an ethical way and facing any ethical issues head on.

Diversity

Not so long ago white men dominated the sports industry at all levels. From front offices to head coaches to behind-the-scenes workers to intercollegiate sports, diversity has become not only a major issue but a priority that needs to be addressed. From Title IX, which forces colleges to have gender-equitable teams, to a rule in the NFL that forces coaches to look at a more diverse candidate pool, it is obvious that the sports industry is not immune to the ethical issue of diversity. While white men used to dominate the industry, as of late, more women and minorities are breaking into the field and are becoming very successful. As diversity as an ethical issue continues to grow in society, so too will the diversification of minorities into the sporting industry.

Pay for Play

Professional athletes make millions of dollars. Although this fact in itself may be seen as an ethical issue, the bigger issue arises when college athletes are viewed to be "exploited." College athletics brings in more than a billion dollars every year, with roughly 64 basketball schools and approximately 25 football schools bringing in over 80 percent of this money, yet the athletes don't see a dime. They are given athletic scholarships, which allow them to receive a college education for free. The ethical issues that arise with this is that many of these student-athletes are using college as a stepping stone to the professional leagues, and they don't care about the college education. And as student-athletes, they are continually asked to miss classes due to travel for their sport and miss study time because of long practice hours. Although a free education may seem like reasonable pay for some college athletes, what about the big-name athletes who are seen as celebrities on campus, and whose names are used for advertising to bring in money for their schools?

Health and Fitness Ethical Issues

One of the less-known aspects of sports management is the health and fitness industry. Health clubs and fitness centers have a unique set of ethical issues that they face. Many health clubs have high-pressure sales, which is a term that describes the quota their employees must meet on a monthly basis to keep their jobs. The problem in many of these clubs is that if each employee met his quota, there would be too many members to provide services to. Another ploy that many of these places use is getting members to sign up for lifetime memberships or forcing them to sign long contracts even though the person may quit after only a few months.

Steroids

Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jose Conseco -- these are only a few of the professional athletes who have been found to have taken illegal steroids. Although what players do is not necessarily a sports management issue, handling the aftermath of the steroid era is a big sports management issue. This is an issue that needs to be addressed to young children, who must be shown that using steroids is not the correct way to become better in a sport. Managers now are forced with a big ethical question. Do they let their players continue to use and perform at an increased level or do they follow the rules and report the violations? Other ethical issues arising from the use of steroids have to do with testing and stopping the creation of new steroids that can't be detected by the tests. What punishment do you hand down? These are some of the questions that are being addressed by sports managers today.

About the Author

Sara Higley began writing in 2008 for the Michigan newspaper "The Pioneer," where she covered local high school and collegiate sports. She has also conducted extensive research on adolescent health and fitness for Leisure Intelligence Group. Sara has a Bachelor of Arts in sports management and communication from the University of Michigan.

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