An Ethical Dilemma Is a Practical Conflict

Topics: Ethical Dilemma

An ethical dilemma occurs when you are placed in a situation where what you believe is challenged or questioned and you are forced to act. An ethical dilemma involves making choices based on values. For example let us assume that you are in a class taking a test. You are on your honor ( a moral obligation) not to talk to anyone and not to give anyone else your answers. As a student you have committed to a school honor code that lists very clearly your obligation to the rules.

Your professor leaves the room. Your best friend asks you for an answer. What do you do? You face an ethical dilemma. you gave your word to follow the honor code, yet you feel a loyalty to your friend. Which is more important? The oath of duty to the rule or the loyalty to your friend…Hard choices are difficult for everyone…let us talk about the conflicting values in this scenario.

We like to call them the tension between social and moral values. Taken from Sport Ethics, Applications for Fair Play (Lumpkin, Stoll, and Beller, 2010, p.21).

In addition….an ethical dilemma is a practical conflict involving more or less equally compelling values or social obligations…they have social implications…requiring decision-makers to consider how their actions will affect different groups of people and individuals (Crosset and Hums, 2010).

Furthermore…Ethical decision making isn’t about suppressing desire. Not primarily. It is about choosing considered desires over more impulse-like desires. (Shields and Bredemeier, 2010, p.

Get quality help now
Prof. Finch

Proficient in: Ethical Dilemma

4.7 (346)

“ This writer never make an mistake for me always deliver long before due date. Am telling you man this writer is absolutely the best. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer


One way to determine if a scenario is an ethical dilemma is to look for the tension between values. Many times this tension is between a social value and a moral value. Review the PowerPoint notes slides 4 and 5. Values and Belief System.ppt and then examine the following scenario:

Three college basketball players have an algebra class together. The instructor of the class has a reputation for giving tough exams and limited office hours. Lisa and Shirley, two of the star players, have studied hard all semester, but are fighting to pass the course, whereas Tara is doing well. If Lisa and Shirley do not pass the course, they will be ineligible for the coming season. For the final exam, Lisa and Shirley position themselves near Tara. Tara should help Lisa and Shirley by making sure they can see her exam.

Tara faces an ethical dilemma. What are the values in this scenario? The tension Tara is feeling is a conflict of loyalty (a social value) to her friends and honesty (a moral value) to uphold the honor code in academia. Try another one. Can you determine which values are in conflict in the following scenario?

A college baseball game is tied in the bottom of the ninth inning, bases loaded with two outs. Just before Marvin comes to bat, his coach pulls Marvin aside. The coach commands Marvin to crowd the plate in hopes of being hit by a pitch. This would allow Team A to win the game. Although Marvin is concerned about getting injured, Marvin should risk injury in order to help his team win.

We can find ethical dilemmas in sport in a variety of areas. Common examples of ethical dilemmas involve:

  • Injury – to play or not play (respect/loyalty)
  • Drugs – use or non-use (respect/success)
  • Money- A coach using players to pursue financial rewards (respect/success)
  • Winning – A coach using players to pursue victory (respect/success)
  • Eligibility in Sport (responsibility/success)
  • Violence in Sport (respect/loyalty)


Intercollegiate Athletics has given us a few examples of where sport leaders were challenged to make an ethical decision (tension between social and moral values). Based on their decisions, the athletic director also had to make a decision considering the very same values.

  • Jim Tressel (Ohio State) – Loyalty to the program (social value) and honest or responsibility (moral values)
  • Bruce Pearl (Tennessee) – Loyalty to the program (social value) and Honesty (moral value).
  • Joe Paterno (Penn State) – Loyalty to the program (social value) and responsibility and/or respect (moral value).

The social value of loyalty and the culture generated by Penn State football is possibly unmatched in sport. Throw in the worst kind of scandal and subsequent cover-up and look what happened. A test at the highest level occurred. A dilemma between a social value (loyalty) and moral values (respect and responsibility) forced ethical decisions to be made in a culture driven by money and success. It appears that decisions were made at Penn State that put loyalty to the football program ahead of respect for the young boys allegedly put in harms way. This failure to take responsible actions to help them created an ethical scenario that those unconnected with Penn State football/ or many of us find difficult to comprehend.

We try to understand what Paterno was thinking. Why did he fail to “do the right thing” when faced with a decision that challenged who he was as a leader and role model. The stories and memories told by Coach Paterno’s former players touch on the moral values he expressed for decades through his teachings and actions. If the stories are true and this is the coach he really was, then how did he miss on his duty to care when it was needed most? Was he engulfed in a culture that clouded his judgment of right and wrong? Did the weight of loyalty (social value) for Penn State and his football program prevail over his responsibility (moral value) for preventing harm to young boys? We would like to believe this is not true.

Cite this page

An Ethical Dilemma Is a Practical Conflict. (2021, Dec 25). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7