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Sports Column: March 13

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The NBA has recently come under a great deal of scrutiny after many of the league’s teams were accused of tanking games, allowing for the opportunity to pick up highly valued draft picks for next year’s season. Throwing games has been prevalent in other professional sports leagues that use drafts, raising the question as to whether or not tanking games in order to ensure a better future can be considered ethical.

There is no clear line, yet one thing is certain: sports were originally meant to create competition among individuals and teams. Fans have come to expect to get their money’s worth when attending a sporting event, but by tanking games, teams not only tarnish their own image but take away the experience that fans seek when attending sporting events.

Through the lens of the historical context of sports, it is easy to see just how much sports have evolved. Back in Ancient Rome, gladiators did not have the luxury of throwing games, most likely because they risked being impaled by their adversaries, taking away the hope that they might get drafted to an easier venue for the upcoming year.

Athletes these days seem to have developed an attitude that competition is a means of gaining fame and money, rather than for the sake of the game. The Olympics are a perfect example of competition that values sports at face value, considering that many of the athletes do not make large amounts of money and sacrifice enormous amounts of time and effort for the sake of their country’s image.

To be honest, Division III athletics seems like a level of competition that also values the sport, considering its lack of athletic scholarships that many Division I athletes abuse. Athletes in professional leagues look past the jersey and the team to the ultimate goal of money and status.

Considering the loss of face value when it comes to certain levels of athletic competitions, it is also important to understand the situations that many teams are in, specifically teams at the bottom of leagues that have been accused of tanking games. Many of these teams lack the funds to sign better players, and considering that many players now play for money, the chance of them signing onto a team that would offer a lower salary is highly unlikely. It would seem then that tanking games and hoping for draft picks is the only way for these lower level teams to gain momentum and actually find themselves winning games.

One only has to look toward the English Premier League to see just how much money affects sports. Fans can count on Chelsea and Arsenal to sit comfortably at the top of the league table simply because they have so much money that the players they can afford are out skill teams at the bottom of the table. Teams at the bottom of the table have one chance to rise in the league, and that usually involves a lot of luck.

Is it ethical, then, to tank games in the hope that better draft picks await? The short answer is no, yet teams are almost forced into the situation, raising the question as to whether the teams themselves are responsible for this unethical behavior or the league itself.

Either way, leagues such as the NBA will soon need to make radical changes to ensure that fans can expect nothing more than a good game of basketball in the future.

hatzky1@stolaf.edu

Graphic Credit: ETHAN BOOTE/MANITOU MESSENGER