The Boston Celtics, a professional sports franchise, decided to lose games on purpose in the hopes of acquiring Greg Oden. The Philadelphia 76ers did not. Two storied franchises (yes, the Sixers are a storied franchise, despite their recent past) decided to do two completely different things. The Celtics sat their best players. The Sixers did the honorable thing and played to win. And there are people in Philly who are mad about the way the Sixers handled it. In fact, there are radio hosts that think the Sixers should have tanked. That reasoning is absurd, pathetic, and remarkably unethical.
I have a friend who worked for an entity that got a lot of government assistance. He said that every year they would dump all their leftover fuel in the woods, lots of it, because if they had extra fuel left over at the end of the year, they wouldn’t get the same amount of money from Congress the next year. And every year,they got a ton of money for fuel. Do the ends justify the means? No, because they engaged in unethical behavior. It was wrong. It was fraud.
The Boston Celtics are a fraudulent franchise. They are paid to try to win every basketball game they put on a jersey for. What is the message they send out when they don’t? That it is OK to shave points in pro basketball, as long as it’s the front office doing it and not the players on the floor? A lot of children attend basketball games. What message did the Boston Celtics send to their young fan base? That it is OK to quit, as long as the ends justify the means? That doing something that is ethically wrong is OK if there is a big payoff in the end?
Of course, the beauty of this is, there was no payoff in the end. The losers in Boston got exactly what they deseved, a kick in the crotch for unethical behavior. And yeah, the Sixers will pick 12th. But the Sixers will have something that the guys picking number five don’t: A front office and a coach who don’t pack it in when the going gets tough. A front office that, while it makes plenty of bonehead decisions, doesn’t engage in fraud (insert Sean Bradley joke here). Do you know how hard it’s going to be to train a team to try to win again, after almost a whole season of trying desperately to lose every game? Players that were told they weren’t good enough to win by trying will now have to, well, win by trying. Or will the Celtics just continue losing on purpose, embarrassing themselves, their players, and their city in the meanwhile?