In recent years, a slew of scandals have plagued the sports industry, from the indictment of dozens of FIFA officials on corruption charges to NFL star Tom Brady's Deflategate controversy.
As negative headlines abound and the reputation of professional sports teams become increasingly tarnished, the importance of personal responsibility and ethical behavior in organized sports cannot be underestimated.
“Across the board within this industry, there are a number of ways that a lack of ethics could cause serious and dire consequences,” says Chris Amos, M.S.. assistant professor and program director of Sport Management Undergraduate Studies at Liberty University. “There are consequences to hiring leaders and employees who aren’t ethically put together — who don’t understand ethics or compromise on their ethics or have low morality.”
The sport industry is experiencing rapid growth, now estimated to generate revenue of 1.6 trillion dollars globally. Those in positions of leadership or influence who lack a strong sense of ethics can have far-reaching negative effects, impacting entire franchises.
To instill ethical values in his students and equip them to become competent leaders, Amos stresses the importance of trustworthiness, integrity, and respect — for superiors, co-coworkers, and the game itself — in his sports management classes.
“When you respect the game and you respect the industry that you’re in, you understand, ‘If I start to commit these violations, if I start to try to go outside the rules, what am I doing to the integrity of the game? Not just this team, not just this league, but the game itself?’ There are implications there with that.”
Another important — and often overlooked — trait Amos instills in students is the importance of attention to detail when it comes to organizing, administering and facilitating sport programs.
“I think attention to detail can really lead to success. Sometimes ethical violations actually happen as a result of a lack of attention to detail,” he explained. “It’s not that somebody purposely intended to create an ethical violation, but they missed something. They just didn't take the time to really look into something, or they didn’t practice attention to detail, and it ended up in a much larger incident.”
At its best, Amos contends, the sports industry is defined by competitive balance, equal funding across the board, and generous opportunities for all athletes. At its worst, it’s a prohibitive atmosphere that sees a disparity in success levels and participation opportunities among athletes.
To ensure Liberty University graduates contribute to the success and integrity of the entire sports industry when they enter the workforce, Amos integrates biblical principles into every class.
“Integrity is one, the Christian worldview, the lens, the ethics of how we’re going to handle things,” he said. “In the coaching realm, we talk a lot about sin and dysfunction; how sin can be passed down from generation to generation and how, as coaches, we can step in and potentially break that cycle. We can be the light to these student-athletes who may not have light in their lives, who may have broken homes, and who might be going through really difficult situations.”
Students also participate in exercises where they learn to think through ethically ambiguous scenarios, enabling them to hone their decision-making skills. In every class — from finance and communication to sports marketing — students are taught how the principles of ethics and integrity apply to every area of life.
By instructing students with a Christian worldview while helping them handle the complex challenges of ethical dilemmas in sports, Liberty University students develop the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the workplace.
“Within the Liberty Sport Management program, we do a lot to build up integrity, to build up character, and to build up ethics,” Amos said. “Within our undergraduate program, we have ethics built into every single one of our classes, so in each course that you take, you’re going to get a component of ethics in there.”
“We really try to focus on how we can have an impact, even in just our office setting, even in a cubicle,” he said. “How can I let my light shine so that people ask me, ‘Hey, there’s something different about you — what is it?’ It gives you that opportunity to share your faith with them.”