The following is an abstract of the paper I will be presenting at the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS) in September at The College at Brockport, SUNY (More here). I will also be giving a version of this paper at the APA Eastern Division on a panel for the American Association for the Philosophic Study of Sport (AAPSS).
Commercial Sport and Corruption: A Critique
There is a common view, not just in sport, that when one's goals centrally involve the pursuit of greater wealth that one's attitude towards other important values will be diminished or corrupted. William Morgan has expressed this most clearly in his claim that when the external goods of the market become ends of sport they deprive "their practitioners of any reason, let alone a compelling one, to value or engage the particular competitive challenges they present, the select athletic skills they call upon, and human qualities and virtues they excite" (147). This paper is part of a broader project to defend the value of commercial sport, but here I focus only on the argument that commercial sport, sport where money is an end at which participants and practitioners aim, undermines the participants' relationship to the other ends of sport. I first outline the argument that commercialism in sport is corrupting. Then I analyze and challenge three presumptions that underpin this argument.
First, one major presumption of this argument is that goods and values can be divided, in a non-question-begging and non-arbitrary way, into internal and external goods and values. This distinction is foundational to most arguments against commercial sport, so if it cannot be maintained, these arguments would be seriously weakened.
Second, the corruption argument rests on the claim that external goods drive out internal ones. That is, as participants pursue external goods, like money, they necessarily diminish their relationship to the internal goods. Part of the claim here is that the internal and external goods necessarily conflict or pull the agent in different directions. Even if the external/internal distinction can be maintained, it is far from clear that these ends cannot co-exist in a mutually supporting way or that there is not sufficient moral space for both kinds of goods in a practice. Moreover, the corruption argument is weakened if external goods, pace Morgan, can provide compelling reasons to pursue and support the internal goods.
Lastly, the argument that commercial sport is corrupting presumes that internal values and goods are more morally important than external ones. This may sometimes be the case, but it hardly seems to be necessarily the case. The argument, without an additional reason to privilege internal goods, loses considerable force if external goods can also have moral importance and significance.
Morgan, W. (1994). Leftist theories of sport: A critique and reconstruction, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.