Research Article

Sport Management Ethics and Integrity

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1. Introduction

Seven papers were included in this review that were published in Communication & Sport, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Journal of Sport Management, and Journal of Global Sport Management. Three topics were examined under the umbrella topic of Ethics and Sport Integrity including corporate social responsibility (CSR), corruption, and racism.

Fourteen different authors (one authored three different papers) from three different countries (Belgium, Portugal, and United States of America) and from seven affiliations (Ghent University, Lisbon University Institute, University of Florida, University of Michigan, Texas A&M University, The Citadel, and West Virginia University) were included in the review.

2. Advances in CSR

Four papers on CSR examined themes related to entrepreneurship and strategy management, factors that influence philanthropy and/or charity, and media framing of philanthropy. A range of theoretical lens were used to either examine CSR (i.e., entrepreneurship theory and framing theory) or test associations (e.g., institutional theory, self-determination theory, personal investment theory, and green mind theory). Despite the main contexts (i.e., United States, professional sports) and methods (i.e., case study, online survey, regress analysis) in which CSR was investigated were not unique the theoretical approaches of three of the papers were mostly novel within the sport management literature. Entrepreneurship theory was used to examine strategic CSR management decision making and implementation. A model of social entrepreneurship drivers in strategic CSR was generated to theoretically explain and practically explain how sport organizations can achieve shared value through aligning social and economic responsibilities. Institutional theory was used to perform a replication study of Marquis and Tilcsik (2016) investigation of how industry peers influence Fortune 500 companies philanthropic giving and apply it to the professional US sport industry. In contrast to Marquis and Tilcsik (2016) findings, Yang and Babiak (2021) showed industry peers had more influence on professional teams’ charity giving than local team peers. Whilst framing theory is not a unique lens to examine media content, using a qualitative framing approach is novel to better understand how the media represents professional athlete philanthropy and the three types of narrow frames used. Last, another contribution of two of the CSR papers (Babiak & Sant, 2022; Yang & Babiak, 2022) was using longitudinal analysis to investigate multiple philanthropic observation points over time to detect influencers, activities, and seek various meanings for professional sport charity.

3. Advances in Corruption

The two papers published on sports corruption focused on the causes and consequences of malfeasance. First, Moriconi and De Cima (2021) drew from structural constraints theory to unpack reasons why referees manipulate football matches. Causes of sports match-fixing literature has tended to focus on individual motivations to manipulate. An important contribution to broadening our understanding of the causes of corruption was to map the specific cultural and relational organizational structures that demonstrate unique types of sports match-fixing, which administrators and academics must consider in devising counter-corruption policies. Second, Lawson’s (2021) synthetic control method to analyze the impact of severe sanctions in the context of college athletics while was methodologically interesting nonetheless the study was atheoretical and thus was limited in its contribution.

4. Advances in racism in sport

The one paper included in this review exposed the timely and dangerous issue of cyber racism of Black activist athletes. There are several theoretical, empirical, and practical contributions of this work. First, using critical race theory to examine various forms of online racist discourses shows how racist terms are normalized by using humor and colorblind discourse. As noted by Oshiro et al. (2021) online community discourses are racialized and in particular sport online message boards display hate because thoughts are articulated anonymously. Second, investigating structural racism in online brand communities is important context to expose the dangerous practice of cyber racism towards Black activist athletes. Much more research is needed to extend our understanding of cyber racism toward athletes and how dominant online cultures resist oppressive practices.

5. Conclusion

The published works in this review, highlight a) CSR research themes including entrepreneurship and strategy management, motivations for professional athlete philanthropy and media’s framing of philanthropy; b) causes and consequences of sports corruption; and c) online racism in sport were the main focus areas of study under the broader umbrella of ethics and sport integrity in sport management. A range of theoretical perspectives were used to frame the research including critical race theory, entrepreneurship theory, framing theory, institutional theory, structural constraints theory, and self-determination theory. The main methodologies used were case studies, basic qualitative approaches (e.g., interviews, content analysis) and quantitative approaches (e.g., survey) that used longitudinal analysis, regression analysis and synthetic control method.

6. Annotated bibliography

Babiak, K., & Sant, S. L. (2020). All the news that’s fit to print? How the media frames professional athlete philanthropy. Journal of Sport Management, 35(1), 55-68.

A qualitative framing analysis was conducted to examine how United States media frame professional athlete philanthropy. 107 news articles between 2005-2017 where the findings showed a growth in media coverage of high-profile athletes’ charitable activities between 2014-2017; additionally, an adapted frame matrix showed that athlete philanthropy media coverage was based on human interest stories, moral and/or social responsibility, and negative economical outcomes. The study has important practical implications for athlete foundations in how they can portray their charity work so it is not pigeon holed into three narrow frames.

Lawson, K. (2021). The Lasting Impact of NCAA Sanctions: SMU and the Death Penalty. Journal of Sports Economics, 22(8), 946-981.

This study examined the long-term impact of a severe sanction (i.e., “death penalty”) in the context of corruption in intercollegiate sports. A synthetic control analysis was carried out on longitudinal data (1980-2019) of team performance and university finances. The findings showed that team performance was negatively affected recruiting and on field performance, while the University had decreased revenue earnings. An unintended consequence of the severe sanction was the demise of the conference (i.e., league). This study supports previous literature of the impact of corruption on teams and organizations.

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(4), 545-563.

The authors examined flaws in sport governance that influenced Portuguese football referees to engage in sport related match fixing. Framed from social theory of structural constraints, interview and document data were analyzed using grounded theory techniques. The findings showed that cultural and relational structural constraints influenced referee match fixing. Cultural constraints involved normalizing the application of informal rules through manipulating written rules. Relational constraints involved direct (referees who do not fix are intimated and unprotected) and indirect (referees fix to receive promotions and career longevity) asymmetric relationships. They also engaged in symmetric relationships were fixing was normalized and institutionalized and whistleblowers were censored. Using structural constraints provides an important extension of our understanding of the failures of sport governance that can influence sports match fixing.

Schyvinck, C., Babiak, K., Constandt, B., & Willem, A. (2021). What does entrepreneurship add to the understanding of corporate social responsibility management in sport? Journal of Sport Management, 35(5), 452-464.

Drawing from the concept of entrepreneurship, this study aimed to explore understanding corporate social responsibility management in professional sport. A qualitative case study of a Belgium football (soccer) club was conducted were 22 internal and external stakeholders were asked about their perceptions of the team’s corporate social entrepreneurship. The findings showed the importance of the presence of an intrapreneur to champion CSR initiatives, an enabling organization, and key stakeholder alliances. However, managing organizational culture and realizing shared value are crucial for successful strategic CSR. Incorporating entrepreneurship theory to CSR management is an important theoretical extension to understanding drivers and levels of influence in strategic CSR processes.

Triantafyllidis, S., & Kaplanidou, K. (2021). Marathon runners: a fertile market for “Green” donations? Journal of Global Sport Management, 6(4), 359-372.

The authors studied the association between marathon runners’ motivation to participate in events for self-esteem and health benefits and their concerns for the environment and donation intentions toward green initiatives using self-determination theory. Web-survey data of 910 marathon runners at a small -scale event where they found that self-esteem and health benefits did not affect environmental concerns; however, intention to donate to green initiatives was associated with self-esteem, health benefits and environmental concerns. This study reinforces the notion that people who care about themselves and the environment will donate to green initiatives to continue to sustain physical activity.

Oshiro, K. F., Weems, A. J., & Singer, J. N. (2021). Cyber Racism Toward Black Athletes: A Critical Race Analysis of TexAgs.com Online Brand Community. Communication & Sport, 9(6), 911-933.

This study drew from critical race theory (CRT) to examine cyber racism against Black male athletes on an online brand community. A content analysis was conducted on a collective case study of fan-generated discourse of four activist athletes to examine racial language used in posts. The findings showed racial discourse included using dehumanizing language including a dichotomy where white athletes were depicted as Good/true and Black athletes were deemed Bad, and Black activist athletes were perceived as unintelligent and labeled “thugs”. This study is an important contribution to the literature as it provides empirical evidence of the racist structures that exist online, in particular within online brand communities.

Yang, D., & Babiak, K. (2021). How league and community affect corporate philanthropy in professional sport: A multiple field embeddedness perspective. Journal of Sport Management, 35(5), 395-406.

Using institutional theory, this study tested how United States professional sports’ philanthropic giving is influenced by multiple peers. A longitudinal analysis using regression analysis of professional team philanthropic data collected between 2005-2017 showed that teams were influenced more by league peers than local team peers. The main theoretical implication is the importance of collecting longitudinal data to examine simultaneous institutional pressures in philanthropic giving.

7. References

Marquis, C., & Tilcsik, A. (2016). Institutional equivalence: How industry and community peers influence corporate philanthropy. Organization Science, 27(5), 1325–1341. doi:10.1287/orsc.2016.1083