Why did they do it?

GUEST COLUM­NIST

Joondalup Weekender - - Opinion -

THERE are no ex­cuses for the be­hav­iour of the Aus­tralian cricket team mem­bers who were caught bla­tantly tam­per­ing with the ball in Cape Town.

But if we are to un­der­stand why highly paid ath­letes would risk their rep­u­ta­tions and po­ten­tially ca­reers in such a cava­lier way, we need to con­sider the con­text in which the tam­per­ing oc­curred.

Firstly, last year’s pay dis­pute, which saw the Aus­tralian team threaten to strike dur­ing the Ashes, may have sub­tly ramped up pres­sure on the team.

Aus­tralians have al­ways had high ex­pec­ta­tions of our sports­peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly our cricket team.

So hav­ing se­cured a pay rise, some of the play­ers may have felt ad­di­tional pres­sure to de­liver their side of the bar­gain – which means win­ning Test matches.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the Test se­ries in South Africa has been par­tic­u­larly ac­ri­mo­nious with each match marred by ugly con­fronta­tions be­tween play­ers.

Steve Smith was clearly ag­grieved when Proteas pace­man Kag­iso Rabada’s sus­pen­sion for mak­ing con­tact with him was over­turned with­out giv­ing him the op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide ev­i­dence.

These fac­tors, very high ex­pec­ta­tions and feel­ing as if they had been treated un­fairly are likely to have played a role in help­ing those in­volved jus­tify their ac­tions, a process psy­chol­o­gists call moral dis­en­gage­ment.

Moral dis­en­gage­ment oc­curs when an in­di­vid­ual knows that some­thing is wrong, but is able to con­vince them­selves that these eth­i­cal stan­dards do not ap­ply to them.

In this con­text Smith may have felt that be­cause he was be­ing treated un­fairly and be­cause of the ag­gres­sive man­ner the se­ries was be­ing con­tested, the cheat­ing was jus­ti­fied. We like to hold our sports­peo­ple up as he­roes and ex­pect them to be­have morally. We also like to see them win.

What we wit­nessed in Cape Town when these two ex­pec­ta­tions come into con­flict was that win­ning was judged the more im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion.

It showed us that there is a cost as­so­ci­ated with the at­ti­tude of “win at all costs”.

Prof. Al­fred Al­lan, an ex­pert in pro­fes­sional ethics in ECU’s School of Arts and Hu­man­i­ties

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