Advice from the Sports Ethicist: Is it okay for a pro athlete to quit in the middle of a game?

Former Bills cornerback Vontae Davis shockingly retired at halftime

Advice from the Sports Ethicist:  Is it okay for a pro athlete to quit in the middle of a game?

Veteran NFL cornerback Vontae Davis shockingly retired at halftime during the Buffalo Bills–Los Angeles Chargers game on September 16, their defeat marking the second blowout loss that the Bills have faced this season.

Davis joined the Bills this past offseason, after five years as a member of the Indianapolis Colts and two seasons with the Miami Dolphins.

Davis cited his ailing physical health as the reason for his retirement, having undergone multiple corrective surgeries in order to keep himself playing. “I’m not feeling like myself,” Davis claimed, saying that he did not mean to disappoint his teammates, but felt the need to preserve his health by ending his playing career on the field.

His teammates, Lorenzo Alexander and Micah Hyde, called Davis’ actions “disrespectful,” while ex-football player and TV show host Shannon Sharpe commended Davis for respecting the game enough to exit with both his mental and physical abilities intact.

While it seems hard to fathom why a player would choose to quit in the middle of a game, I do see where both sides are coming from. It’s disrespectful to the teammates who are counting on your support, as well as to fans who have paid good money to come see players doing what they’re paid to do.

On the other hand, it’s always crushing when a pro athlete is injured, and it was probably a good move on Davis’ part to not play in the rest of the game. Having residual injuries and needing joint replacement surgeries later in life is a commonality for professional athletes, and Davis’ need to maintain his physical health is completely understandable.

But I think there could have been a much better way to approach retirement than the route Davis chose. There were so many other things that he could have done, least of all waiting until a timeout to announce his decision and sit on the bench for the rest of the game. No retirement decision is made lightly. Many an athlete have spoken about it when they knew it was time to retire — their bodies had been feeling slower and they weren’t able to keep up with the younger players on their teams.

Keeping this perspective in mind, it seems hard to believe that Davis’ decision was spur of the moment, and the Bills apparently had issues with Davis before his announcement.

The main conclusion to draw is that there are almost no circumstances that I can think of in which retiring in the middle of a game is an acceptable, moral, ethical, or respectful decision. As reported, no one knew before the game that Davis would make the decision to retire, and some of his teammates didn’t understand what had happened until after the game.

Hopefully, the Bills won’t let the loss of Davis prevent them from trying to come back from their blowout of a start to the 2018–2019 season.

Tom Brady’s peculiar diet

Brady claims to drink somewhere between 12 and 25 glasses of water per day

Tom Brady’s peculiar diet

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — a five-time Super Bowl Champion and three-time NFL MVP — is widely considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. Lately, however, Brady has been endorsing some rather strange dieting habits.

Brady developed these methods with his best friend and ‘body coach’ Alex Guerrero. Guerrero, however, has been caught up in a number of controversies, including lying about being a medical doctor.

Guerrero has also been investigated by the American Federal Trade Commission twice: the first time for starring in an infomercial for a product called Supreme Greens, which claimed to be able to cure “cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease”; the second for advertising a similar product, NeuroSafe, which was advertised as being endorsed by Brady himself.

In September 2017, Brady released his book, The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance. In this book, Brady detailed exactly what he eats every day. One main feature of his diet is an absurd amount of liquids.

In the mornings, Brady doesn’t eat a full meal. When he wakes up at 6:00 am, he drinks 20 ounces of water infused with electrolytes. He then drinks a smoothie containing blueberries, bananas, nuts, and seeds. Two hours later, he has another glass of electrolyte-infused water, and a post-workout protein shake. Brady claims to drink somewhere between 12 and 25 glasses of water per day.

He also heavily encourages snacking. He usually snacks at around 11:00 am, just before lunch. For lunch, Brady will usually have a piece of fish and a lot of vegetables. In the afternoon, he may have another protein shake or protein bar, and around 6:00 pm, Brady eats dinner, which, again, consists of mostly vegetables.

His book provides recipes for chicken and salmon burgers, green salads, and a creamy pasta sauce — which is odd, considering that he supposedly rarely eats carbs. But even Brady treats himself sometimes. He doesn’t often eat dessert, but he does give a recipe for his famous avocado ice cream.

His book also contains several strange rules for eating. Brady won’t eat carbohydrates and protein together. He recommends eating carbs or protein with vegetables instead, as he believes that this is better for digestion.

Brady’s chef Allen Campbell says that 80 per cent of his diet is vegetables and the rest of his diet is mostly duck, grass-fed organic steak, salmon, and sometimes, chicken.

Brady follows what he refers to as an alkaline diet, in order to minimize muscle inflammation. This entails limiting ‘acidifying foods,’ which mostly includes starch and dairy. Brady will not drink water 30 minutes before a meal, and will wait an hour after a meal before drinking another glass.

What is even more bizarre is the list of foods that Brady doesn’t eat. For Brady, caffeine, white sugar, salt, white flour, dairy, and all nightshade vegetables tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and mushrooms are completely off the table. He also won’t consume olive oil if it’s used in cooking but he’ll have it raw. And he won’t eat fruit, unless it’s in a smoothie.

While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with Brady’s diet, and it clearly isn’t hindering his play on the field, many of the specific effects that his diet is supposed to have are not backed by scientific evidence.

He claims that limiting acidifying foods helps control the body’s pH balance. However, what one eats actually has little effect on the body’s pH. Your lungs and kidneys control pH levels automatically.

Brady also claims that this diet can decrease inflammation in the body. While dieting actually does have an effect on the body’s inflammation levels, the extreme methods that Brady takes to avoid inflammation are unnecessary. Typically, having a balanced diet with less processed foods is a solid start.

At 41 years old, which is already ancient in football years, Brady says he wants to play at least another five years. While he is certainly capable, his diet probably won’t go very far in helping him achieve this goal.

Donald Trump has sparked a civil war within the NFL’s fanbase

Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the anthem in 2016

Donald Trump has sparked a civil war within the NFL’s fanbase

With more fans than any other collegiate or professional sport, the NFL boasts the highest league revenues as well as the most lucrative television deal in the world.

Yet in recent years, the NFL and its players have been bombarded with controversy, which has served to polarize the league’s fan base. Players choosing to kneel during the national anthem — and the assorted policy and procedural changes that the NFL adopted to address these player actions — continue to be an ongoing issue, even with the 2018 season kickoff.

Nike’s latest “Just Do It” ad campaign, featuring the leader and face of the movement, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has only served to heighten the debate surrounding the issue.

Kaepernick first popularized the controversial act of kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to highlight racial injustice in the United States. In May 2018, NFL owners finally responded by voting in favour of requiring players to stand during the anthem and threatened to fine teams if players took a knee or weren’t on the field during the national anthem.

As Kaepernick’s social movement has gained momentum, notable individuals like US President Donald Trump have criticized it. Like most critics, Trump believes that kneeling during the anthem is unpatriotic and disrespectful to the men and women who serve in the military. Proponents continue to respond to this point of view by asserting that when athletes take a knee, they are simply practicing their right to free speech.

After the NFL Players Association filed a complaint, Adam Schefter, ESPN’s lead NFL correspondent, reported, “the new policy is going to be no policy,” later explaining that “too many people have stances too strong to figure out a compromise.”

In July, the NFL ultimately decided not to implement the new policy detailing player behaviour during the national anthem and teams sanctions.

By hitting the pause button on their policy, the NFL has recognized that the issue of kneeling during the national anthem is simply too contentious; therefore, the safest course of action is simply to do nothing.

The NFL’s inaction has resulted in a barrage of criticism from Trump. After the first week, the US President continued his social media barrage against the league, tweeting that television ratings for the first game were down from those of last year and “viewership has declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade.”

While Trump would like there to be a link between the NFL’s declining television ratings and players kneeling during the national anthem, the truth is that ratings have been declining for the past couple of years, which is consistent with broader viewership trends across the country. At the same time, the number of players that have decided to overtly protest has also declined, which further discounts Trump’s assertion that kneeling has resulted in lower television ratings.

And while Trump has been extremely vocal about his views regarding this topic, other public figures within the NFL have verbalized their support for the social movement. Detroit Lions principal owner Martha Ford openly challenged his assessment of the situation, saying that “players’ right to express views is part of what makes America great” and that “negative disrespectful comments suggesting otherwise are contrary to the founding principles of our country.”

Even though Kaepernick is no longer in the league, he continues to support players taking a knee to protest racial injustices in the United States and has found a new advocate in Nike. While not all consumers have responded positively to Nike’s new campaign and some have even taken to burning Nike products, the company has seen a 31 per cent increase in sales since the campaign’s launch.

Regardless of one’s stance on the issue, Kaepernick’s message has served to inspire not only NFL owners, players, and fans, but also positively impacted society as a whole.

The technical side of doping

How technology helps athletes gain an unfair advantage

The technical side of doping

It’s no secret that sports are an incredible source of national pride; one only has to think back to the Vancouver Winter Olympics or the Jays’ long awaited return to the playoffs last season to illustrate this point. National teams and athletes who make it to the top want nothing more than to represent their country on the world stage.

Unfortunately many athletes can get carried away by and falter under the pressure of representing an entire nation; some are willing to cheat in order to bring home a gold medal. Traditionally, this meant using illegal performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), but as technology and sporting equipment have become more sophisticated, ‘technical doping’ has become the latest issue plaguing sport.

‘Technical’ doping can be defined as performance-enhancing technologies that are in opposition to or threaten the integrity of sport. For an athlete to be accused of technical doping, they would have to compete with sports equipment — like bikes, balls, or clothing — that have been altered so as to provide an athlete with an unfair advantage over their opponents. Although not as severe as the use of PEDs, accusations of technical doping often tarnish an athlete’s reputation, as well as their sport.

One of the most high-profile technical doping scandals was ‘Deflategate.’ The equipment manager for The New England Patriots’ was accused of deflating quarterback Tom Brady’s footballs, and making them easier to throw during a rainy game. The news broke when the Patriots were in the midst of a great season and already on their way to Super Bowl XLIX. The story made national headlines for weeks, and people began to question the legitimacy of Tom Brady’s legacy.

After an investigation by the NFL, the league determined that the footballs were deliberately modified and that Brady was aware of the process. Although Brady has repeatedly demonstrated his ability on the field, the scandal still drew significant ire. One of the most high-profile incidents of “technical doping” in recent memory, deflategate is only one example of technological rule bending in sport.

Attention to sports has grown world-wide, and as a result more innovative sports technology has been created. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 23 out of 25 record breakers, including Michael Phelps, wore the Speedo LZR swimsuit. The suit allowed better oxygen flow to muscles, and it trapped air to add buoyancy. When swimmers realized they could get a major advantage without using drugs, many of them hopped on board.

In the first five days of the International Swimming Federation’s (FINA) swimming championship in Rome, 29 world records were set, directly after the introduction of the Speedo LZR. FINA realized the suit was altering the sport and decided to ban them in 2010, but the Speedo LZR would permanently change the swimming record books.

FINA asserted that the swimsuit should not determine one’s ability to excel in the swimming pool. From this point forward, it will be very difficult for swimmers to break records that were achieved by athletes wearing the Speedo LZR.

Similar to technical doping, mechanical doping is a term used to refer to cycling athletes who have mechanically altered their bikes to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors. The most recent case of mechanical doping occurred this year at the world cyclo-cross championship in Belgium. A competition for off-road bike racers, the cyclo-cross race encountered its first experience with mechanical doping after a bike inspector located a motor in the bike of Belgian co Femke Van den Driessche. The world governing body for sports cycling, Union Cycliste Interntionale (UCI) is currently investigating the incident, while Van den Driessche claims the bike belonged to a friend.

“It’s a very new thing in the sport,” remarked Matt Norman, member of the Varsity Blues mountain biking team, about instances of mechanical doping in cycling. “This first incident that happened at that cyclo-cross race was the first time its ever been recorded.”

Norman, who is also a mechanical engineering student, cited that although the sport is riddled with chemical doping, members of the cycling community were surprised that an athlete would go so far as to implant a motor in their bike. “With… chemical doping it’s sort of accepted… everyone does it so everyone is on the same playing field,” he explained. “[With mechanical doping] you’re using power that isn’t yours… it was a huge shock to the community because no one thought it was something that would go on.”

After many unfortunate situations regarding PEDs, athletes have begun looking for new ways to gain an advantage. Technical and mechanical doping are new forms of cheating that all sport-governing bodies need to acknowledge. The use of performance-enhanced equipment has already left an imprint on swimming, called into question the integrity of cyclists, and damaged the legacy of one of the NFL’s greatest players of our generation.