Moral Codes, Moral Tensions and Hiding behind the Rules: A Snapshot of Athletic Administrators' Practical Morality

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Sport administrators working in highly formalised sport organisations presumably have their moral decisions guided by strict rules, regulations, and standards of conduct. Challenges arise when organisational standards and values contradict administrators' personal moralities. In such cases administrators must learn how to weigh these different values and standards and make "good decisions." The purpose of this study was to examine athletic administrators' morality as it pertains to how they think about right and wrong and how they discerned different moral values in carrying out their various professional roles and responsibilities. Interviews with 10 compliance officers from each of the institutions in a large athletic conference in the United States were carried out. The findings showed that the respondents displayed an individual normative system comprised of professional and personal moral values. Their respective normative systems reflected an overall practical morality that drew from addressing moral challenges in their compliance work. These respective values created various tensions for the compliance officers when deciding right from wrong, fulfilling their compliance officer role, and interpreting rules. The findings also showed that some individuals "hide behind the rules" in order to shed themselves of moral responsibilities. The nature of the results has implications for sport management ethics curriculum and how we train individuals in relation to enhancing their practical morality and ability to address the diversity of moral challenges that arise within respective sport professions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-305
Number of pages27
JournalSport Management Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2007


  • athletic administrators
  • compliance officers
  • ethical decision-making
  • practical morality


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