Title

Race and the Extra-Legal Punishment of Professional Athletes

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

9-5-2018

Department

Philosophy and Religion; Psychology

Abstract

In recent years, major American sports teams and leagues have responded increasingly to players’ off-field, off-court wrongdoing by imposing extra-legal punishments (ELPs) on offending athletes. This paper focuses on an unexplored ethical concern raised by ELPs: teams’ and leagues’ economic incentive for racial bias in the imposed sanctions. In an experimental study, Black and White participants read a series of vignettes about fictional professional athletes who received ELPs for various off-field transgressions. Black participants evaluating punishments imposed on Black athletes found the ELPs inappropriate and overly punitive relative to punishments imposed on White or racially neutral athletes. Conversely, Whites assessing ELPs imposed on Whites found them too harsh. These findings suggest that the race of both perceiver and target influence lay persons’ judgements about ELPs, which raises questions about the ability and willingness of teams and leagues to impose such punishments fairly and consistently, given their business interests.

Publication Title

Sport in Society

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