Moral Clauses in Sports

imageIn recent years some professional athletes have ignored the morals clause in their contract. Some of them were accused of domestic violence and received light punishments. This is becoming unacceptable because having a morals clause in the contract is like a hand book of what to do and what not to do. Some organizations took the proper precautions, but some just let these incidents slip under the rug.

According to the US’s legal definition , “A morals clause is a provision in a contract or official document that prohibits certain behavior in a person’s private life. They deal with behavior such as sexual acts and drug use. Morals clauses are included today in certain contracts of public figures, such as athletes, actors/actresses, and others.” In a recent interview with Mr. Gallagher (IHS athletic director), he talked about the importance of moral clauses, “Moral clauses are important to make sure people who are involved in athletics are held to a high standard. Whether it is a coach, player, administrator, parent, spectator, or official, all of us have a duty and responsibility to make sure we represent Ipswich HS, the Cape Ann League, the MIAA, the Community, etc. in an appropriate way.” Ipswich High School students have a moral clause to abide to; this is the Student Handbook. This document lays out what students are allowed to do and what students are not allowed to do.
Moral clauses are especially important in sports, especially professional sports. This is because most athletes, “They are role models.” Gallagher says, “They are idolized and they are very visible. Impressionable kids look up to them. Sometimes it seems as if the money a professional athlete makes goes to their head and they end up making bad decisions and choices. For the same reason high school and college athletes are held to a higher standard, so should pro athletes.”
Professional sports have moral clauses. According to a sports law insider, “Each of the four major team sports leagues in North America include ’morals clauses’ in the standard player contracts in their collective bargaining agreements. Section 11 of the NFL standard player contract, for instance, provides that ’if Player has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club, then Club may terminate this contract.’ Moreover, the NFL Personal Conduct Policy authorizes the NFL Commissioner ’to impose discipline as warranted’ when a player fails to conduct himself ‘in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful . . . even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime.’” In some cases, unfortunately, athletes decide to not make the best decisions and contradict their moral contracts. For example, Adrian Peterson, of the Minnesota Vikings, beat his 4-year-old son and only was suspended six games by the NFL. His actions could be considered to be a case of domestic violence. A Prosecutor states that, “Domestic Violence is a violent confrontation between family or household members involving physical harm, sexual assault, or fear of physical harm.” Mr. Gallagher has a strong opinion on domestic violence as he says, “My opinion is it seems to be on the rise and it is troubling to me. I’m not sure if it has truly risen, or just gained more media attention, but it is certainly prevalent right now. Any form of violence is disturbing to me.” Locally, Senior Captain of the basketball team, Peter Pappas stated in an interview. “I think the punishment should be longer than it usually is. You should be banned from the sport you’re playing.” Clearly Peterson didn’t get evoked from the game of football which is saddening because he is a public figure and it shows kids that he got away with a crime.
What is more troubling is that some punishments are not equally in severity. A perfect example of this would be Greg Hardy, a Carolina Panther who beat his girlfriend. He was suspended ten games by the NFL. When he appealed his suspension it was reduced to four game. Tom Brady allegedly deflated some footballs and got the same suspension that Hardy got, even though Hardy’s actions were much more severe. When asked whether professional sports do enough to enforce the rules among athletes, Gallagher answered, “No. I think it has been very inequitable the way professional sports organizations have treated different athletes for rule and/or other violations. I would like to see them standardize punishments and also make sure the punishments are not too harsh or lenient. I am all for looking at each situation independently, but there should be some standardization involved.” Stemming off these topics, professional sports can and should strengthen their punishments. As Mr. Gallagher said, “In some instances, yes. As previously mentioned, I think punishments need to be standardized and appropriate for the violation that has occurred. Some leagues and organizations do this well, and others not so well.” Clearly, the NFL does not do this well. This doesn’t put a good impression on younger kids because it shows that deflating a football and beating a women have the same punishment, but it should be much worse for Hardy.
Moral clauses are very important once men and women graduate college. Especially those who are going to be professional athletes because they are looked at as role models to younger children. With actions like Peterson and Hardy, it might show the next generation that because you have a lot of money you can get away with anything. That idea needs to be erased from people’s minds because that’s not the case. No one is above the law.