With this first review, I believe it is important to clarify the meaning of the term’s ethics and sport integrity and thus outline the scope of the category. In the broader literature, the meaning and distinction of the term’s ethics, morality, and integrity is well discussed. I do not intend to engage in such a debate in this review. The term ethics is used expansively to include but not limited to: a) a meta-ethical dimension involving deciding what is right, wrong, duty, responsibility, and obligation (e.g., moral reasoning and justification, social responsibility); and b) applied ethics (normative ethics) where scholars apply a set of reference points to make moral justifications (i.e., applying principles, rules, virtues to resolve specific sport moral problems) (Frankena, 1973; Nash, 2002). I will also use the terms ethics and morality interchangeably as do many in the field of sport management and in business ethics because epistemologically the terms have similar root meanings (Nash, 2002). “Sport integrity involves sport actors, professional behaviors, and organizational processes and procedures where moral values and norms serve as ideals and standards that influence sport governing body [sic] structures, systems, and decision making to enhance its integrity performance (Kihl, in press). Hence, sport integrity involves both corrupt and non-corrupt behaviors by sport actors as well as corrupt and unethical sport organizational governance, decision making and organizational practices.
Eleven papers were included in this review that were published in Communication & Sport, European Sport Management Quarterly, International Journal of Sport Finance, International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Journal of Sport Management, and Sport Management Review. Ethics and Sport Integrity is a topic that spans across a majority of the sport management scholarly outlets regardless of journal focus. Two papers studied sport corruption. One paper examined corruption’s impact on event sponsors. Whilst one another investigated the media’s role in communicating corruption. Two papers examined athlete misconduct and its effect on team, stadium, and league sponsors. Three papers investigated the topic of match-fixing in terms of its causes, its impact on demand, and governing body policy responses. Three papers examined sexual assault and violence. One examined institutional image repair after systemic case sexual assault, the second critiqued the rhetorical dimensions of sexual assault in combat sports, and the last examined feminist understandings of violence. Last, one paper examined crisis management decision making.
Twenty different authors (three authored two different papers) from seven different countries (Canada, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States of America) and from 13 affiliations (Auburn University, German Sport University, Indiana University-Bloomington, Laurentian University, Lisbon University Institute, Loughborough University, Örebro University, University of Louisville, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, University of Palermo, Teesside University, The Ohio State University, Vassar College, West Virginia University) were included in the review.
2. Ethics and integrity studies
Chakravarti & Boronczyk (2021) conducted an event study methodology on the Indian Premier League to measure how the Indian supreme court’s ruling announcement to ban two teams for engaging in corruption impacted the share price of sponsoring firms. The negative effects on firm value were greater for sponsors of suspended organizations than league sponsors or non-corrupt teams. This research supports the sports corruption literature in terms of the impact of corruption on sponsors who are connected to corrupt teams. Event study methodology is also a popular method for testing the economic impact of unethical behavior in sports.
Manoli and Bandura (2021) conducted qualitative focus groups to examine individuals’ perceptions of traditional and social media’s role in reporting corruption. Framed from Heidenhemier’s (2002) perceptions of corruption, three different cases of severity of sports corruption (high, moderate, and low) were presented to participants. The analysis generated a model of perceived role of traditional media and social media and perceived severity of corruption. While this topic is well documented in the broader communications and management literature, this paper is of the few studies in a sport context to examine these phenomena.
Ge and Humphrey (2021ab) conducted two event study methodological studies on the impact of National Football League (NFL) athletes off-field misconduct on sponsors. The first study (2021a) analyzed the stock prices of firms sponsoring the NFL league, teams, and sponsors where off-field conduct negatively impacted team sponsors versus league and stadium sponsors. The second study (2021b) extended the first by measuring the variables heterogeneity of player misconduct types (i.e., harming overs vs. self-harming behaviors), player visibility (i.e., star status), and national media coverage to show that NFL athletes’ crimes that harmed people and had high media coverage led to higher negative returns for sponsors. The findings support the broader management and business ethics literature.
Moriconi and De Cima (2021) provided a nuanced qualitative analysis of the social structures (i.e., cultural and relational) (Archer, 1995; Scott, 2011). influencing Portuguese football referees to engage in match-fixing. The findings provide an important contribution to the sport corruption literature. It specifies aspects of the governance structure of Portuguese football refereeing system including the evaluation and classifying system of referees that expose integrity risks, the manipulation of formal and informal rules that normalizes corruption, and direct and indirect relationships that place undue influences on referees to engage in match-fixing.
Manoli et al. (2021) conducted a comparative case analysis of United European Football Association’s (UEFA) policy responses to Greek and Turkish match-fixing cases. Using a normative lens, the study exposed important inconsistencies in policy responses between the two cases. The findings support current scholarship that suggests accountability measures of international sport governing bodies in eradicating match-fixing and sports corruption, in general, are ineffective because of varying policy implementation, discretionary power, and relying on legal proceedings as a sanctioning strategy.
Amenta & Di Betta (2021) used the 2006 Italian Calciopoli systematic match-fixing case, to test the theory that sport corruption sanctions (i.e., relegation) impact a football industry in terms of sport demand (i.e., attendance). Drawing from principal-agent theory, systematic corruption, and punitive system concepts, two log-linear models on the demand side were estimated using a fixed effect estimator. Their hypothesis was supported, which has practical implications for assigning sanctions for corrupt teams as monetary punishments maybe more adversely impactful than relegation.
Hindman et al. (2021) analyzed the NBA’s moral decision making related to the COVID-19 crisis to demonstrate the complex and ethical challenges involved in managing a professional league during a pandemic. Using the concepts of bounded rationality and bounded morality they content analyzed NBA media coverage and showed that the League’s decision making was influenced by trying to balance caution (i.e., health and safety) with risk (i.e., finances and competitive advantage). A central contribution of the study is exposing how rationality and morality impact a League’s decision making in the context of a severe crisis where moral conflict of finances versus health and safety must be resolved in a timely manner.
Frederick et al. (2021) conducted a qualitative media content analysis to examine institutional image repair (Benoit, 2000) in the Larry Nassar and Michigan State University (MSU) case. Overall, and non-surprisingly MSU’s impair repair strategies were ineffective because people felt they mishandled the situation and placed blame on the victims. To shift the theoretical image repair needle, it is important to use an integrative theoretical framework that combines theories and conducts cross case comparisons of different scandal types and the image repair strategies used.
Milford’s (2021) analysis of the rhetorical dimensions of sexual assault in combat sports is an intriguing and thoughtful analysis. First, drawing from Burke (1954) he makes the case that in combat sports the rhetoric around sexual assault places the culpability on survivors rather than on the assailant. Second, he argues through the “one-two punch” of hegemonic masculinity and hierarchy analogy that rhetoric of victim blaming is intensified based on the unique hierarchical and reverential nature of the sport in and hegemonic masculinity. Returning to Burke (1954) and his notion of action and motion, Milford suggested cultural change in the sport can only occur by placing responsibility of assaults on those in positions of power. The study has an important practical and policy implications for sport governing bodies and clubs in managing sexual assault.
Using a traditional feminist understanding of violence in male sports, the Alsarve’s (2021) paper sought to distinguish masculine ideals to target for a violence prevention program in the context of Swedish ice hockey. Based on the thematic analysis, male behaviors that needed intervention in the ice hockey culture related to sexist attitudes, aggression and violence encouraged by drug and alcohol consumption, and a competitive environment. The practical implications demonstrate that if sports aim to be inclusive sport managers hold the responsibility to create supportive and safe playing environments with no tolerance for sexist attitudes and behaviors, alcohol and drugs, and implement rules that discourage reckless competitive play.
The published works in this review, highlight that the causes, consequences, and reform efforts of sports corruption are the main focus areas of study under the broader umbrella of ethics and sport integrity in sport management. Sexual assault was also a critical area of research where understanding how to counteract and change masculine cultures was a focus. A range of theoretical perspectives were used to frame the research including of bounded rationality and morality, Burke’s (1954) victimage ritual, hegemonic masculinity, image repair, normative policy response, perceptions of corruption, and social structural constraints. The main methodologies used were event study and basic qualitative approaches (e.g., interviews, content analysis)
Alpaslan, M. C., & Mitroff, I. I. (2004). Bounded morality: The relationship between ethical orientation and crisis management, before and after 9/11. In M. A. Rahim, R. T. Golembiewski, & K. D. Mackenzie (Eds.), Current topics in management (pp. 13–43). Routledge.
Archer, M. (1995). Realist social theory: The morphogenetic approach. Cambridge University Press.
Benoit, W. L. (2000). Another visit to the theory of image restoration strategies. Communication Quarterly, 44, 463–477.
Burke, K. (1954). Permanence and change (3rd Ed.). University of California Press.
Frankena, W. (1973). Ethics (2nd Ed.). Prentice Hall.
Heidenheimer, A. J. (2002). Perspectives on the perception of corruption. In J. Heidenheimer, & M. Johnston (Eds.), Political corruption: Concepts and contexts (pp. 141–154). London: Transaction Publishers.
Kihl, L. A. (in press). Sport integrity systems: A holistic approach to promoting and safe guarding sport integrity. In Frank van Eekeren and Arnout Geeraert (Eds.), Critical reflections of sport governance. Routledge.
Nash, R. J. (2002). “Real world” ethics: Frameworks for educators and human service professionals (2nd Ed.). Teachers College Press.
Scott, J. (2011). Conceptualising the Social World. Cambridge University Press.
Trujillo, N. (1991). Hegemonic masculinity on the mound: Media representations of Nolan Ryan and American sports culture. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 8, 290–308.
4. Annotated bibliography
Chakravarti, P., & Boronczyk, F. (2021). Corruption and sponsor value: An event study analysis. International Journal of Sport Finance, 16, 44-56.
This study examined the impact on firm value on teams’ and league sponsors byway of the 2013 Indian Premier league scandal. Using an event study methodology, a reaction to the Indian Supreme Court decision to impose a life ban cricket on actors involved in corruption. The results showed that team and event linked sponsors experienced an immediate decline in firm value; the decline is larger for event sponsors in comparison to team sponsors and the effect on sponsor firm value differs because of a variety of factors that cannot be generalized. This study has more practical worth than expanding our theoretical understanding of sports’ corruption impact on sponsor values.
Manoli, A. E., & Bandura, C. (2021). Perceptions of the role of traditional and social media in communicating corruption, Sport Management Review, 24(3), 500-516.
Using Heidenhemier’s (2002) framework on perceptions of corruption, this study examined how the perceived severity of sports corruption influenced peoples’ perceptions of the role traditional and social media play in communicating corrupt acts. Eighteen focus group interviews involving 99 participants were asked to provide their perceptions about the media in three cases of corruption that varied in severity (i.e., low, mediate, and high). The findings showed that participants’ perceptions of the role of traditional and social media varied based on the perceived severity of sports corruption. Whilst a model was created to explain the perceptions of the role of media given the gravity of corruption, the theoretical contribution is limited.
Ge, Q., & Humphreys, B. R. (2021a). Athlete off-field misconduct, sponsor reputation risk, and stock returns. European Sport Management Quarterly, 21(2), 153-172.
The authors used event study methodology to examine how National Football League (NFL) athlete off-field misconduct affects the stock price of the athletes’ team, stadium, and the league. From 2007-2017 863 individual NFL player off-field misconduct instances were identified. Stock price data of 179 publicly traded firm sponsors of NFL teams, NFL stadiums, and the League were then analyzed. Firms sponsoring NFL teams were impacted by off-field misconduct -0.3% but stadium and league sponsors were not. However, post-2014 negative impact of player off field misconduct was -.01% which was attributed to establishment of the NFL’s Player Conduct Policy. The study is interesting but does not move the broader scholarship related to misconduct and economic impact.
Ge, Q., & Humphreys, B. R. (2021b). Athlete misconduct and team sponsor stock prices: The role of incident type and media coverage. Journal of Sport Management, 35(3), 216-227.
This study examined heterogeneity of National Football League (NFL) athletes off-field misconduct and amount of media coverage impacted team sponsor stock prices. Heterogeneity of off-field misconduct was measured by two dimensions: a) self-harming crimes (e.g., intoxication, drug possession) and other-harming crimes (e.g., assault, domestic violence); and b) misconduct by star players versus less prominent players. Using event study methodology, the results showed NFL players off-field misconduct negatively impacted stock prices. Negative sponsor stock returns were found where crimes harmed other people and had more media attention. Crimes involving star players did not negatively impact stock prices vs. crimes committed by less prominent players. Heterogeneity of off-field conduct contradicts the sport corruption literature which suggests that it is the extent of nature of unethical behavior and not the type of behavior.
Moriconi, M., & De Cima, C. (2021). Why some football referees engage in match-fixing? A sociological explanation of the influence of social structures. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 13(1), 143-158.
This study examined the social structural constraints (i.e., cultural and relational) of sport governing bodies to understand why some Portuguese football referees engaging in match-fixing. Primary data in the form of 21 interviews was collected where it was found that structural (i.e., the countries’ refereeing evaluation and classification system), cultural restraints (i.e., selective application of formal rules, normalizing informal rules (i.e., abnormalities) and formalizing abnormalities), and relational constraints (i.e., direct asymmetric relationships, indirect asymmetric relationships, and symmetric relationships) influenced referees to fix matches. The findings provide a substantial contribution to the literature through using a nuanced theoretical framework (i.e., social structural constraints) and context.
Manoli, A. E., Yilmaz, S., & Antonopoulos, G. A. (2021). Match-fixing in Greece and Turkey and UEFA’s policy responses to it: a comparative study. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 13(1), 143-158.
The authors’ examined the Union of European Football Association’s (UEFA) normative policy responses to football match-fixing cases in Greece and Turkey. A comparative case analysis of the ‘Koriopolis’ and ‘Sike Davasi’ cases was carried out through archival analysis of various legal and media documents; while the Koriopolis case also conducted qualitative interviews with 19 participants to clarify the document data. Findings showed that UEFA was inconsistent in its sanctioning framework. UEFA The failed to sanction the Greek club; however, they sanctioned the Turkish club. Lastly, individuals involved in match-fixing were less likely to be sanctioned by UEFA, despite their disciplinary regulations. While this study provides limited new theoretical insights about accountability, it does however, illustrate the problem with governing bodies’ poor implementation of sanctions, which contributes to crime syndicates continuance to engage in match-fixing.
Amenta, C., & Di Betta, P. (2021). The impact of corruption on sport demand. International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, 22(2), 369 384.
Through a case analysis of the Italian Calciopoli scandal, the aim was to determine what are suitable sanctions for corruption in professional football and whether sanctions or monetary fines are most suitable sanctions. Two panel data sets were created from first and second division Italian soccer clubs for the seasons 2004/2005 to 2009/2010; the authors estimated two log-linear models of the demand side (i.e., stadium attendance) using a fixed estimator. The results showed that the three-season attendance for all of the clubs immediately decreased 18.4% following the relegation of Juventus as well as a 1% decline in stadium attendance. The findings offer important empirical data to support changing regulation notions regarding the effectiveness of relegation.
Hindman, L. C., Walker, N & Agyemang, K. J. A. (2021). Bounded rationality or bounded morality? The National Basketball Association response to COVID-19. European Sport Management Quarterly, 21(3), 333-349.
Framed from bounded rationality and bounded morality (Alpaslan & Mitroff, 2004) this study examined the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) COVID 19 pandemic crisis management decision-making. A qualitative media content analysis was conducted where they that the NBA COVID-19 decision making involved weighing the appropriate level of caution (bounded morality) with risk (bounded rationality) Shifting priorities by different League actors influenced whether they were risk averse or risk tolerant. Economic, basketball, and career pressures increased risk tolerance for the league, while legal and public relations factors persuaded the league toward risk averse decisions. The case analysis is suitable for teaching purposes to help students critically think about factors to way during crisis management.
Frederick, E., Pegoraro, A., & Smith, L. R. (2021). An examination of Michigan State University’s image repair via Facebook and the public response following the Larry Nassar scandal. Communication & Sport, 9(1), 128-149.
Using Benoit’s (2000) image repair typology, this study examined Michigan State University’s (MSU) image repair strategy on Facebook following the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. The findings demonstrated that MSU predominately used the image repair tactics of bolstering (i.e., using false praise to build image), corrective action (i.e., actions that prevent reoccurrence of the event), mortification (i.e., admission of guilt and apologizing), and rallying (i.e., unifying and moving forward). Corrective action and mortification strategies generated the highest engagement (i.e., comments, likes, and reactions). Last, users were overall critical of the University and its crisis management approach. This case analysis also is a good teaching case for studying image repair.
Milford, M. (2021). Full contact: Sexual assault, combat sports, and the myth of self-defense. Communication & Sport, 9(3), 418-437.
How combat sports places responsibility for sexual assault on the victim was examined. First, it is argued the promotion of combat sports and self-defense are founded on Burke’s (1954) notion of victimage ritual that places the responsibility of the survivor to fend off the assailant. Second, the role of hegemonic masculinity and hierarchy (Trujillo, 1991) is examined in preserving a system that empowers attackers, marginalizes survivors, and generates a perception that combat sports is incapable of addressing accusations. Last, Burke’s (1954) understandings of action and motion is a lens to change the culture of combat sports that places the responsibility of attackers on the sports’ hierarchy. By using a nuanced theoretical lens to examine the phenomenon, new understandings about how to change cultures and practices about sexual assault were provided.
Alsarve, D. (2021). The need for a violence prevention programme in ice hockey: A case study on how hegemonic masculinity supports and challenges violent behaviour in Swedish ice hockey. European Sport Management Quarterly, 21(2), 218-236.
Interviews with sports coaches were conducted to develop a violence prevention program in Swedish ice hockey that targets problematic masculine ideals. The findings supported previous research in that male group dynamics normalized sexism, players who were aggressive on the ice demonstrated violent and alcohol abuse behaviors off the ice, and the rules contributed to the violent nature of the sport. To shift the current normalization of problematic ideals in sport, scholarship needs to consider a different theoretical lens to shape violence prevention (e.g., Milford, 2021 in this review).