Approaching tough, ethical issues through your sport management degree

William Woods Undergraduate

As a bachelor in sport management student, you will encounter countless challenges and issues throughout your professional career, forced to make tough, ethical decisions and point your team in the right direction. One major question you will ask yourself:

How does one foster unity amongst their team while still respecting the individual voices of their players?

We see team managers across the country wrestling with this balance in the case of the NFL controversy that has flooded the news over players taking a knee or standing for the national anthem.

Manage ethical issues through your sport management degreeDoug Sanders, Professor of Sport Management at William Woods University is known for altering planned-curriculum for the day and refocusing class structure on relevant issues facing the sports management industry — creating a place for open discussion and collaborative problem solving.

In his Management of Athletics course, Sanders poses questions about rules and policy that open the door to deeper discussion among students. “Do we have [rules] put in place saying that we have to do something as an employee? What happens if we stand up against our organization? Is it our choice? And what are the consequences?”

It is a team manager’s ethical duty to inform their players of the administration’s policies and rules — what their rights are and also what repercussions their actions have within an institution — giving players the freedom to make informed decisions regarding their career.

In order to do this, they must first become well acquainted with the rules and policies. Lines get blurred however, when there are strong policies, but no established rules in an area. This is the case the NFL is facing right now, as NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell explained in a press conference that it is policy that players stand for the anthem, but it’s not a rule.

Sanders then addresses the question: “When there’s no rule, where do we fall?”

“For example, at the college sport level, where we have 1,500 or so schools and several hundred student athletes, some may take one side, some may take another and as an organization you want to try to have a collective voice and sometimes that is difficult to do,” Sanders explains.

Manage ethical issues through your sport management degree Through addressing these important and very relevant issues in class, Sanders’ aim is not to give students all the answers, but to supply them with the tools to make smart and ethical decisions when facing tough challenges throughout their career.

“From the management side we take a look at different scenarios — Have we seen them come to fruition? What has been successful? What is unsuccessful? What is still being determined a success or failure? And how can these situations be handled in your career,” said Sanders.

William Woods hosts LEAD events throughout the year that focus on relevant issues such as this one. In the past, events have included “Athletics on Trial: Legal and Ethical Cases from the World of Sports”, as well as a talk entitled “Why Sport Matters”, which included open discussion of current issues in the athlete development from youth to adult participation.

Whether it is through attending LEAD events such as these, through class discussion or through visiting with your professors during open office hours to gain greater clarity, there are a multitude of ways sport management degree students can expand their knowledge and better prepare to address tough issues that will arise throughout their career.

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