Sport as a Moral Practice Versus a Social Practice
A Conflict Between Sport Academicians and Sport Practitioners

By Andy Rudd, Western Oregon University and Sharon Stoll, University of Idaho

This article substantiates the observation that there are values & moral erosion in USA sports.

For over 100 years, sport has been generally viewed as an ideal medium for developing character in the United States. However, two distinct schools of thought may exist when it comes to how sport is viewed as a practice and how character is defined. In essence, there is apparent discord between what sport academicians, e.g., sport philosophers believe sport ought to be versus what sport practitioners actually practice.

Briefly, sport academicians espouse an ideal perspective and typically believe that sport ought to be viewed as a moral practice in which sport is predicated on the application and upholding of various moral values. For example, playing by the constitutive and proscriptive rules of a given sport requires that each participant be honest, fair, and responsible. As a result of this moral, ideal perspective, many sport academicians hold strongly to the notion the definition of character must be viewed from a moral perspective, e.g., one who willingly and sincerely applies moral values to decide right from wrong. In contrast, many sport practitioners, e.g., coaches, athletic administrators, and the general populace do not hold an ideal perspective but rather, many maintain a more practical, applied perspective and view sport as a social practice.

Rather than viewing sport as moral practice in which moral values such as honesty, fairness, and responsibility are central to the practice of sport, sport practitioners more commonly believe that social values such as teamwork, loyalty, and self-sacrifice are more paramount for the purpose of winning and being successful outside of sport. This perspective has been supported by various sport sociologists who posit that sport has a direct relationship with what is valued in our American society.

Many sport sociologists maintain that sport is used as a vehicle to perpetuate our American capitalistic and corporate ideology. Therefore, social values such as teamwork, loyalty, and self-sacrifice are cultivated among youth sport participants for the purpose of maintaining capitalism and corporatism. Given this societal view of sport, sport practitioners commonly define character as person who is a team player, loyal, and willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. Unfortunately, there is much evidence in the way of cheating and violence to suggest that there is something amiss with sport practitionersí notions about character development in sport. An athlete may be a great team player and knows how to sacrifice for the good of team, but at the same time this athlete may support a deleterious win-at-all cost model .... a moral dilemma!