This past week we have seen a pretty notable violation of “respect for people” by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. This incident with the recording of him saying offensive things about his girlfriend hanging out with African-Americans is certainly striking because of the primary race of the players he employs on his team and the demographics of his team’s fan base. However, it’s getting a lot more attention because this isn’t the first time Sterling has been reprimanded for discrimination – it’s become a habit of his in his business dealings with the Clippers and in his real estate business.
But, really, the larger issue isn’t just that Sterling said offensive things. No, sports as a culture is running rampant with violations of “respect for people” in the locker room and in the business offices. Here are just a few examples, some far more serious than others.
– The Richie Incognito controversy with Jonathan Martin
– Mike Rice berating his players at Rutgers University
– The concussion problem plaguing the NFL, plus the NFL’s improper handling of retired players suffering ailments
– Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly not listening to his player during a practice
– Australian Open tournament directors not handling players properly in the extreme heat
– The Dave Bliss controversy with the Baylor basketball program
– Bobby Knight and his handling of players
– The Miami Marlins doing practically everything to destroy their fan base
Players being mistreated or ignored, a culture of gaming the concussion system, underpaid grunt interns and low-level account executives in offices, coaches making promises they can’t keep, schools using amateur players to grow cash coffers while players go hungry, allowance of crime cover-ups like with Jameis Winston and Brendan Gibbons…
And on and on.
Individuals in sports really need to take a stand and decide if they are going to be a purely market-driven enterprise (complete focus on the bottom line, prioritizing revenues and costs) or if they are going to be an honest, people-centric enterprise and caring for its partners all throughout the value stream.
Masquerading as a fair, charitable, philanthropic industry of amateurs and fairly-paid professionals while treating their own partners poorly is not a good way to do business and this dichotomy between what we say and what we do is what makes the news.
– How much more does it cost a minor league team to provide a nutritional consultant and a higher road per diem for their players, and what kind of on-field success return would that bring?
– How hard is it to treat players like people and listen to their ideas? What’s more important, coach – your ego or winning with strategies you didn’t come up with?
– Why is it so difficult to see that the crime cover-up turns out to be worse than the crime itself? (Well, Dave Bliss somewhat excepted.)
– If you have to yell at and put down a player because he’s messing up, is that possibly because you haven’t properly taught him what he needs to do?
Respect for people isn’t hard to accomplish. The hardest part is checking your ego at the door and putting the priorities in the right place.