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Ethical Challenges and Practices in Sports Management


Sports management is all about the business of recreation. Sports managers can work with professional teams, college teams, sports marketing firms or recreational departments. The business of sports involves the practice of ethics. This system of values isn't just for individual conduct; it also informs the actions and missions of sports organizations.

Ethics are essential to good sportsmanship. As athletes are trained to follow the rules of a game and adhere to good sportsmanship, sports managers also must navigate the ethical challenges that are part of any sports organization. The athletics world is sometimes mired in accusations of racism, substance abuse, lack of diversity and gender equality, dishonest recruitment practices and abusive treatment of players. A sports manager needs to know how to address, manage and solve these challenges in today's sports world.

Earning a Master of Science in Recreation with an emphasis in Sports Management online from Northwest Missouri State University will give graduates a solid foundation in sports communication, management, facility design, finance and marketing in recreation. In addition, with core knowledge in grant writing, data analytics, human resources and risk management, you will be prepared to tackle ethical challenges in the sports management world.

Ethical Challenges a Sports Manager May Face

A sports manager might deal with a variety of ethical dilemmas during their tenure. Some of the most urgent ethical and human rights matters coaches and sports managers may encounter include:

  • Gender equality. Women make up 40% of athletes but only receive 4% of sports media coverage, and they often make significantly less money than their male counterparts. A sports manager is responsible for hiring coaches, drafting athletes and recruiting front and back of house personnel. It's increasingly paramount to be cognizant of unequal treatment in sports, especially regarding race, gender and ethnicity.

Sports managers are also responsible for following Title IX rules that enforce men and women having the same opportunities in athletics — especially as it relates to the pay gap between women and men.

  • Substance abuse. Some athletes will engage in unethical behavior due to overwhelming pressure to win or perform. Some may turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve pressure and stress, while others may turn to performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to perform at a higher level. Coaches and sports managers need to take an active interest in players' lives. With clear communication, a sports manager can let athletes know that they will not tolerate drug and alcohol use. Educating the team on how substance abuse affects performance and mental health is also important.
  • Recruitment practices. Ethical recruitment practices include full transparency regarding student-athletes' past athletic program, school and career success. Recruiting students who can be athletically and academically successful should be the main force behind the recruiting approach. The use of bribes, gifts, negative statements regarding rival schools or organizations and lowered academic standards are not part of an ethical recruitment playbook.
  • Treatment of players. Bullying and hazing have highlighted the need for more vigilant prevention plans. Athlete abuse can happen as sexual, physical or psychological abuse at the hands of coaches, trainers, those in positions of authority and fellow teammates. Improved structures for abuse investigation and reporting, as well as learning to support and understand victims and survivors, are vital to protecting athletes.

How to Get Involved

If you want to turn your passion for sports into a career, an online Master of Science in Recreation with an emphasis in Sports Management may be right for you. With a skill set that includes effective communication, leadership, public relations, business strategy, event coordination, sales and financial asset management, you can guide athletes and staff toward ethical success.

Learn more about the Northwest Missouri State University's online Master of Science in Recreation with an emphasis in Sports Management program.


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