Fair Play: Sports, Values, and Society

Fair Play: Sports, Values, and Society

Fair Play: Sports, Values, and Society

Fair Play: Sports, Values, and Society


We have become used to the world of sports being rocked by scandals. Stars are deprived of their Olympic gold medals because of their use of performance-enhancing drugs; heroes are suspended or banned from their sport for gambling or for connections to gambling; major universities are involved in recruiting scandals and are accused of exploiting their own students. But ethical concerns about sports run deeper than the current scandals in today's headlines. Athletic competition itself has been criticized as reflecting a selfish concern with winning at the expense of others. Some question the emphasis on an athletically skilled elite at the expense of broader participation by the masses, and many worry about what constitutes sex equality in sports. Others believe the role of sports ought to be greatly diminished in our educational institutions. Do organized competitive sports have a legitimate place in our schools, and, if so, how is that place to be defined?Professor Simon develops a model of athletic competition as a mutually acceptable quest for excellence and applies it to these and other ethical issues in sports. The discussion of each topic deals with examples from the world of sport, illuminated by philosophical work on such values as fairness, justice, integrity, and respect for rights. Fair Play offers a rigorous exploration of the ethical presuppositions of competitive athletics and their connections to moral and ethical theory that will challenge the views of scholars, students, and the general reader. Our understanding of sports as a part of society will be reshaped by this accessible and entertaining book.


Sports play a significant role in the lives of millions of people throughout the world. Many men and women participate actively in sports, and still more are spectators, fans, and critics of sports. Even those who are uninvolved in sports, bored by them, or critical of athletic competition often will be significantly affected by them, either because of their relationships with enthusiasts or, more important, because of the impact of sports on our language, thought, and culture.

Because sports are a significant form of social activity, which affect the educational system, the economy, and perhaps the values of citizens, they raise a wide range of issues, some of which are factual or empirical in character. Social scientists, historians, physicians, and writers have raised many such issues that concern sports. For example, sociologists may be concerned with whether or not participation in sports affects the values of the participants, and psychologists might try to determine what personality features contribute to success or failure in competitive athletics.

However, in addition to factual and explanatory questions, sports also raise philosophical issues that are conceptual and ethical in character. Conceptual questions concern how we are to understand the concepts and ideas that apply in the world of sports. What are sports anyway? How are sports related to rules? Do those who intentionally break the rules of a game even play it or are they doing something else? Are there different forms of competition in sports? Is it possible to compete against oneself?

Ethical questions raise the moral concerns many of us have about sports. Should sports be accorded the importance they are given in our society? Is there too much emphasis on winning and competition? Are college sports getting out of hand? Why shouldn't we cheat in a game if it will bring us a championship? What, if anything, makes the use of steroids to enhance performance in sports unethical? How should men and women be treated in sports if they are to be treated equitably and fairly? Should we be aiming more for excellence in competition among highly skilled athletes or should we place greater value on more . . .

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