Editor’s note: Check back in the coming days for additional content to this post which will feature a deep-dive discussion on the moral code of tanking and the practice’s themes and applications between me, from a compliance and ethics perspective, and my husband, Bill Afonso, from a sports management and strategy perspective.
This is the second in a series of five posts on the topic of integrity of game play. Last week’s post discussed player misconduct, such as penalty embellishment, like diving and flopping, and equipment cheating. Today’s post is about the ethics of tanking and will question the morality of the practice across various sports and situations. Next week’s post, on March 7, will be about how instances of referee bias impact games, players, and teams. The fourth post, on March 14, will be about institutional cheating by team organizations. The fifth and final post, on March 21, will be about coaches who have demonstrated unethical leadership practices.
Tanking is loosely defined as relying upon poor performance in order to ensure future benefit or competitive advantage based upon bottom of the table results. Internal decisions within the team organization can be planned and intended for the purpose of gaining future advantage via sustained losses or refraining from employing the most competitive strategies. This can include roster manipulations such as sitting key players or keeping others in the minor leagues or farm systems, as well as actually instructing players actively in the game to underperform or to pursue strategies they expect to be unsuccessful or unproductive in order to deliberately lose the game(s).