Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mike Rice: Coaching or Abusing? (2013)

Mike Rice, former Rutgers basketball coach
What is the job of a coach? According to, the UK's official graduate careers website, "Coaches help people participating in sports to work towards achieving their full potential". Basically, a coach is supposed to try his best to bring out his athlete's best. Of course, there are different ways and styles of coaching. Phil Jackson's coaching style was very laid back. He demanded a lot from his players but never seemed to get angry or yell. On the other hand, Bob Knight's coaching style was very intense. He was always yelling at players or officials if they did something wrong. Both coaches were highly successful in their careers, so it's hard to tell which is a better coaching style. How does a coach know which style to lose? Or better yet, how can a coach know how mellow or intense he should be to bring out the best in his players?

That was a problem for former Rutgers head basketball coach, Mike Rice. He was unable to tell when he was crossing the line and being too intense or hard on his players. He couldn't distinguish the difference between coaching and abuse.
On April 3, 2013, Mike Rice was fired from his position as head basketball coach because of abusive videos that were released. Rice was shown in the videos shoving, kicking, throwing basketballs, and using gay slurs towards his players during practice. He was clearly very intense and thought that this would help his players reach their full potential. His actions affected a lot of people such as the players and their families, fans, school officials, and Rice himself. People can say the Rice's actions were completely wrong no matter what, but I am going to analyze his actions using four different ethical theories.

Rutgers Univ. Scarlet Knights Athletics logo

The Individualistic theory stresses the happiness of ones self. You have to be happy in order to make someone else happy. It is the most basic of the four theories. If the action that you do is within the law and makes you happy then that action is in accordance with this theory. In the case of Mike Rice, the abuse of his players would've been okay if it wasn't against the law and it made him happy. However physically and verbally attacking his players is illegal. Individualism also involves maximizing profit. Rice was fined $75,000 and lost his job so he did not maximize his profits. Mike Rice's actions go against the theory of Individualism. 

Utilitarianism believes in maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. Maximizing happiness means that the course of action should be the one that makes the most people happy. Mike Rice treated his players the way he did because he thought that it would bring out the best in his athletes and ultimately make them win games. Winning games would make all of the fans and major stakeholders happy, even the players that were being abused. That would maximize happiness. However, the basketball team under Mike Rice was 44-51. Winning less than half of their games means that Mike Rice was unable to maximize happiness. He did the opposite and maximized suffering. The players were mentally and physically hurt. They were constantly afraid of losing their scholarships if they spoke out. Their parents were angry and upset that the abuse occurred and went on for as long as it did. The university was embarrassed that something like that happened under their supervision. Rice's actions are not in accordance with Utilitarianism.
Rice showing aggressive behavior to a teammate

Kantian theory states that decisions should be made based on what's right, not on quantitative reasons such as maximization. There should be some type of good will behind every decision. People should be respected and informed so they can make rational decisions. None of the players were informed that they would possibly be pushed, kicked, have objects thrown at them, or called terrible things; therefore they could not make a rational decision. If Rice informed the players before hand and truly thought that his actions were for the better of his players, then Kantians would agree with his actions. Unfortunately, that was not the case and Rice did not treat his players with respect. 

Virtue Theory
Virtue Theory consists of four different elements. These elements are courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. Under the Virtue Theory, courage is to stand up for what is right. Honesty is to be truthful no matter what to all of the stakeholders. Temperance is to have realistic expectations. Justice is to be fair to all stakeholders. Mike Rice did not display any of these elements in his actions. He did have have the courage to stop his behavior after the first time he abused a player. He was not honest with his players or their parents when he was recruiting them. He did not have temperance and lashed out whenever a player did something wrong no matter how small. Lastly, he was not just with his players because of his abuse. 


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