It is rare to hear of ethical issues in sports organizations, especially when it is directed at a certain player. In the recent abuse case with Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL has again been unethical in their approach of the situation. When certain ethical theories are applied to the scandal, there would be many different aspects that would be expanded upon and attempted to show where the NFL could improve. In terms of an Individualist, the scandal would be seen as somewhat of a nuisance seeing that an Individualist’s main goal is to maximize profit. Utilitarian theory would analyze the overall happiness of the stakeholders, and claim the NFL unethical based on their actions. Kantian’s would inspect the NFL’s true motives, looking at the initial attempt and the continuous further attempts to convict Mr. Elliott and figuring out if their actions were just. Virtue Theory would reflect on the dishonesty, biased opinions, selfishness and manipulation when dealing with the case.
The NFL is the largest football organization that has been around since September 17, 1920 and was founded in Canton, Ohio. Originally called the American Pro Football Association, the NFL has grown exponentially since then to become a world known company. It has become a great social event and way of making connections in the world today. Along with the social aspect, the NFL has done a lot of work for local communities with charities and reaching out programs that the NFL funds.
The newest abuse case in the NFL dealt with Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott, beginning on August 11, 2017 with the initial statement of Ezekiel Elliott’s 6 game suspension. As soon as the accusation arose, the media was covering the story with as much detail as possible. Less than a month before the NFL season, the hopeful and excited NFL fans would have to wait in suspense unknowing of when Elliott will return.
The initial statement that came from the NFL had claimed that Ezekiel Elliott had committed multiple incidents of abuse during the week of July 16, 2016, and again on March 11, 2017. The initial statement was not the real issue however, it was what Elliott and his representatives responded with. The part that was most astonishing was that Elliott’s representatives claimed that the NFL had inaccurate facts and selected pieces of evidence to convict Elliott. When people asked why there were no criminal charges filed, it was stated by the city attorney of Columbus that his office would not pursue domestic violence charges due to conflicting and inaccurate information. Some of the information released by the city’s attorney office showed text messages between the supposed victim and her friend, with her friend telling the victim to lie to the police.
After the Deflategate case dealing with Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady, the NFL had a new legal playbook. With the new strategy in place, the NFL immediately asked for a stay of Judge Mazzant’s injunction, who was the judge that decided the case. To speed up the process the NFL would have to prove that Judge Mazzant incorrectly applied the law in deciding to grant the injunction. Their main goal should be to find out if there is substantial evidence that Ezekiel Elliott did in fact commit domestic abuse on the dates noted. The obsession that the NFL has with the suspension has made them appear unethical in their procedures and values.
The stakeholders affected by the case is very broad. The NFL players, coaches and organizations are affected by this because they are often interviewed about the topic, even if it does not apply to their team. In addition, the fans are questioning the NFL’s motives in the case, wondering why the dilemma is still occurring.
Since the goal of an Individualist is profit alone, there would be some issues with how the case was handled. They would look into the case to show support against domestic abuse, which could possibly help the NFL gain more sponsorships and positive reinforcement. The increased sponsorship would help the league gain more profit for themselves. After the initial failed attempt however, an Individualist would see the excess money spent on the case as somewhat of a waste because that money could be used in other areas to help the organization’s profitability.
Utilitarianism is based on the overall happiness of everyone involved. After the initial decision of the case, the repeated attempts to try and convict Ezekiel Elliott would be seen as negative effect to the NFL community. The repeated attempts would give viewers a distasteful perception of the NFL and their motives for conducting the case. The NFL’s lack of honesty and avoidance of certain facts that would weaken their claim would give the public a decreased approval of the organization.
A Kantian simply bases the value of one’s decision off of good will. At first, it would seem like a great idea to support such a cause because of the damage it can do to someone. After seeing that the case was unsuccessful for the NFL, the continued attempts of aspects not directly connected to the facts of the case would seem somewhat personal. The true motives of the NFL would be called forth and questioned by many. At a certain point, it no longer seemed like good will was the main factor in the case.
The Virtue theory would examine the dishonesty, biased opinions, selfishness and manipulation that the NFL used in the case. The theory would point out that the NFL altered and “cherry picked” facts to support and strengthen their case. The misuse of those facts would be questioned and seen as manipulative. In addition, the reoccurring attempts at trying to disprove the judge’s procedure would be seen as selfish in the way that it at that point did not deal with the facts of the case directly. It gave the perception that it was a personal case for the NFL and that they would do whatever it took to suspend Mr. Elliott.
When evaluating the case personally, I thought that the NFL’s actions seemed just at first. However, after I researched more in depth about the topic I felt that it became personal for the NFL, therefore unethical. I understood the initial attempt because if Ezekiel Elliott was guilty then he should be suspended at the least for such a thing. When the NFL started challenging the procedures of the judge to uphold the suspension, I lost some respect for them. The NFL strayed away from the facts of the case, and lost sight of what really mattered.
The action plan for the NFL should have been much more simplified than what they have done and are currently doing. They should have gotten all the evidence against Mr. Elliot and called Elliott into the offices before making the decision to suspend him. An initial discussion with Elliott before taking action would show that the NFL cares and believes in its players above outside sources. If Elliott denies the accusations and the NFL still believes that there is significant evidence that Elliott committed the accusations, then a case should be put in place.
When evaluating the case, the NFL should keep the facts as accurate as possible. The goal of the organization is to find the truth, not try and convict their own player at all costs. Honesty should be a key factor in the case evaluation, as well as keeping personal vendetta’s out of the scenario. If the judge rules in Elliott’s favor, then the NFL should have stopped the investigation. There is no need to go more in depth by challenging the judge’s procedures to convict someone that was proven not guilty. The repeated attempts give negative views from the NFL community.
The unethical actions by the NFL gave the organization a bad perception that they wanted to avoid. In the past the NFL seemed to ignore such cases, and I approve of their attempt to prove that Elliott violated the NFL rules. However, the excessive attempts at the case give an obsessive view to the public that the NFL will do whatever it takes to convict Ezekiel Elliott.
1. Hairopoulos, Kate. “Decide for Yourself: The Evidence and Arguments Surrounding the Suspension of Ezekiel Elliott.” SportsDay, SportsDay, 30 Oct. 2017, sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2017/10/30/everything-need-know-nfls-investigation-cowboys-rb-ezekiel-elliott-assault-allegations.
2. McCann, Michael, and The MMQB Staff. “NFL Calls Audible on Legal Strategy in Elliott Case.” SI.com, Sports Illustrated, 15 Sept. 2017, www.si.com/nfl/2017/09/15/nfl-calls-audible-legal-strategy-ezekiel-elliott-case.