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Beyond the Game

Sheth and Babiak talk mention an NBA social responsibilty initaitive in their study of CSR and sports.

Milton Freidman’s article regarding the corporation’s social responsibility has been the most intriguing article I’ve read in this class all semester.  I agree with it on many levels, but also keep finding good arguments against it, as we have discussed in class.  I decided to dig a little deeper on Google Scholar, seeing which articles, specifically about sports, had cited Friedman.  367 articles had popped up as articles about or including sports that had also cited Freidman, but many past the first page only mentioned sports in passing and was not going to be useful.  The second article that was listed was unavailable to view, so I clicked on a link that gave me related articles.  After browsing for a few minutes,  I came upon an article from the Journal of Business Ethics published by Hela Sheth and Kathy Babiak, called “Beyond the Game: Perceptions and Practices of Corporate Social Responsibility in the Professional Sport Industry.”  This was perfect, and it even cited both Friedman and Freeman.  

The article examines the growing importance of corporate social responsibility, or CSR, and explains that it is being included as a necessary function in businesses to gain a strategic advantage, and/or portray a CEO and other top managers’ values to be altruistic, among other advantages for the corporation.  This sets the stage for talking about sports, and how little research has been done regarding CSR and sports.  However, due to somewhat recent events and changes in the industry, CSR could be imperative to the success of professional sports leagues.  For instance, the article talks about the National Basketball Association (NBA), and one of its programs, NBA Cares.  NBA Cares is an initiative launched with the commitment of donating $100 million to various organizations helping lesser privileged children and their families.  With the NBA having just come out of a lockout, there is a lot of talk about NBA players getting paid to much, as NBA owners are arguing that their teams are failing to make a profit.  When our country is in the midst of an economic downturn and NBA players are making as much as $30 million a year (where the league minimum is somewhere near $400,000), public relations for the NBA could be a disaster.  But programs such as NBA Cares is a way to help out many of the families who are avid fans of the NBA.  Many poorer communities in the US tend to be fans of the NBA and its players, as many players come from modest backgrounds.  Here is one of many of the commercials the NBA has run for NBA Cares:

The article also included information about CSR and other sports leagues, and proved to be very helpful when looking at business ethics and sports.  I am considering writing my final paper on issues having to do with CSR and sports, and narrowing it to a certain league may make sense.  Looking at NBA Cares as an example, I’m going to focus in the next week or so on commercials or other marketing schemes that highlight professional sports CSR examples, more closely looking at the NFL, the MLB, and the NHL – other prominent professional sports leagues in the US.


About Ben K.

I'm a senior management major at Bucknell University, hailing from Westchester, NY. Upon graduation, I will begin work as a management consultant.


11 thoughts on “Beyond the Game

  1. I agree with the notion that corporate sustainability reports are almost expected anymore. It definitely serves as a necessary function in businesses to gain a strategic advantage, or to even say a barrier to entry. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of connections being made between CSR and sports, or at least being aware that it was. When I think of CSR I think of brands with tangible good such as Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Coca-Cola… The issue that players get paid too much is an issue that seems to resonate with all sports. For me, not being an avid sports follower (minus the Philadelphia Phillies!), I tend to agree with that sentiment. The NBA Cares program sounds like a great initiative. I’d be interested to know how that $100 million is delegated to the various organizations. Regardless, I hope this initiative has been proving to be a successful endeavor to those it strives to help! I look forward to hearing more about your research involving CSRs and sports, if you chose that path.

    Posted by Danielle Marquette | March 26, 2012, 4:19 pm
  2. Ben – I think the information you found is very interesting. Personally, I always associated corporate social responsibility as only applying to business; however, it makes sense that it could apply to the sports industry as well because essentially the franchises operate as businesses. After reading your post, I would be curious to know where Friedman was cited in Sheth and Babiak’s article. I think that Friedman argued that the only responsibility of business was to increase it profits and this seems to go against what the NBA Cares program is all about. Was the new article presenting a counter argument to Friedman’s views or am I misinterpreting it?

    Posted by Lauren McGuiggan | March 26, 2012, 6:47 pm
    • Sorry Lauren, I realize now that I didn’t really make that connection clear in my post. Basically, the article cites Friedman, and explains how he was responding to a growing trend of socially active corporations. This trend is still increasing. They then went on to explain Friedman’s dislike with these actions, but the article seems to suggest that CSR is very important in the professional sports arena because of unique characteristics of the industry. With players’ inflated salaries, teams’ increased exposure (through technology and the media), as well as endorsements that thrust players into role model positions, CSR is something that needs to be taken seriously. However, the authors didn’t disagree with Friedman, but instead cite A.B. Carroll who looked to expand upon Friedman’s work with a CSR framework that categorized a corporation’s social responsibility in a more exhaustive manner (but did not necessarily disagree with Friedman).

      Posted by Ben K. | March 27, 2012, 3:57 pm
  3. Ben, your post probably leaves most of us others BGS students envious due to the phenomenal results that your cited reference search provided. The information you have presented here shows to be very compelling and extremely applicable to the subject that you are currently pursuing. I was wondering if you have considered pursuing Nozick for this subject as well? As a quick reminder, Nozick was the one who discussed Wilt Chamberlain and mentions the entitlements that we have as humans. I believe his Entitlement Theory may prove very useful to your studies, so check it out if you want!

    Posted by Derek | March 27, 2012, 9:05 am
  4. As an avid basketball viewer, I always see commercials for NBA Cares. Although I love watching football, tennis, and baseball, I never really notice if the leagues have a cohesive program like the NBA does. Ben, did the article mention anything, or did your ref cited, delineate any other sports teams or leagues (professional or non) that are actively engaging in CSR activities?

    Posted by Dana Silverstein | March 27, 2012, 9:50 am
    • Dana, look at Brody’s comment below. The NFL and the MLB have done a ton of CSR work, and much of this has been documented in advertising campaigns as well as marketing initiatives. I also find that professional leagues do a lot of CSR activities that seem to be isolated events. In other words, I’ve seen things like an NFL team having a pregame tribute to our service men and women around the globe – and then surprise a family in the middle of the field with their husband/father coming home from Afghanistan. I feel like this article talks a lot about major CSR activities and we might forget that there is a ton of CSR intiatives that are done on a smaller scale. Rather, these CSR events might also just be marketed less to the public.

      Posted by Ben K. | March 27, 2012, 3:47 pm
  5. I also agree that this is an interesting topic. After reading your post, I thought about CSR and sports and realized that even most of the teams here at Bucknell participate in some form of CSR. I know that most teams volunteer within the local community. My water polo team for example as helped at the food bank as well as some of the local businesses. So if you are having problems looking for examples, you might just be able to look around on campus.

    Posted by Amanda Skonezney | March 27, 2012, 11:28 am
  6. I think that the relationship between pro sports and CSR is fascinating, particularly with the types of initiatives that they choose to push forth. The NBA, as you mention, focus a large amount of effort on helping underprivileged children and their families, the NFL has put a lot of time/money in the Play60 campaign to get children to exercise, MLB seems to have their hands in a ton of initiatives all at once, etc. It seems to me that these leagues have sort of staked an ownership claim to certain activities, but it doesn’t really seem like there is any overlap amongst the leagues. A joint effort between MLB, NFL, and NBA would be really interesting.

    Also, I did a cited ref search for the article that you looked at, and it looks to me like the ideas they are espousing have some legs. Even though it was only published in 2010 (which means its still an infant in article-years) it has already been cited 24 times according to Google Scholar. This is a hot topic that is only going to increase in importance as companies and organizations continue to push towards great social responsibility.

    Posted by Brody Selleck | March 27, 2012, 2:30 pm
    • Thanks a lot for looking at the cited ref search for my article, Brody. I didn’t even think to see what articles had cited my own article for some more info. When I decide on what my final topic is, I’m going to rely a lot on these types of searches for a reliable way to find articles talking about what I want to know. Also, I like what you said about a joint CSR effort among the various professional leagues; that would be very interesting as I could see it being very effective. However, it’s probably very unlikely, with major professional leagues rarely getting involved in joint efforts (or so I think). Lastly, I’m glad to see the article I chose has been cited so many times – must be a quality piece!

      Posted by Ben K. | March 27, 2012, 3:42 pm
      • And a popular topic. One aspect of yoru apper 2 or final white paper could be more about the sociology of sport. Why is it so popular?

        Posted by Jordi | March 30, 2012, 1:39 pm
    • 24 citations for a 2010 article is huge. Often 1-3 would be considered relevant. Professors just don’t read that fast.

      Posted by Jordi | March 30, 2012, 1:37 pm

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