An Uneven Game: The Prevalence of Corruption in Athletics

Corruption and sports have always gone hand in hand. Whether it was rigging a gladiator fight or deflating footballs, the athletic world has always been forced to coexist with unsportsmanlike conduct. In particular, gambling has always been a particularly prominent form of corruption in all types of sports. Large gambling organizations have had widespread influence and power in the sporting world due to the large amount of money that flows through their hands. These organizations have the power to change the outcome of competitions through bribery and rigging. Also, players have the ability to bet against themselves, purposely lose a competition, and collect on the earnings.

This scenario famously played out in the 1919 World Series, in which the Chicago White Sox were competing against the Cincinnati Reds. Eight White Sox players threw the World Series for their team and bet against themselves in order to make an easy profit. These players were nicknamed the “Black Sox” due to their betrayal of the team and the fans. Unfortunately, betting organizations have only gained power and influence since this incident.

With the introduction of the internet and online gambling, people can now place bets from home, accounting for a large increase in gambling practices. Recently, the athletic world has been continuously shocked by corruption, notably in “match-fixing” scandals in the tennis world. Players have reported many occasions where illegal betting organizations have approached them and offered them money to lose their match. This problem is especially prevalent in the tennis world because tennis is a single player sport in which the sole player has complete influence in the outcome of the match, and therefore can single handedly can throw a match. A report from the Tennis Integrity Unit states that 16 unnamed members of the top 50 tennis players in the world were suspected of match-fixing, showing just how prevalent widescale corruption is in the modern athletic world.

The crime of “insider betting” is not victimless either. People who bet on the projected winner, only to lose due to corrupted matches are not given a fair chance in winning and in doing so lose considerable amounts of money. Also, fans of teams and players that are involved in match-fixing lose out on the sense of accomplishment that comes from their team’s victory.

Corruption does not just stop at the players, as referees and sports equipment have also been used historically to rig the outcome of sports events. Referees, just like players, can be bribed to call penalties against certain teams which will influence the outcome. Former NBA referee Tim Donoghy betted on games that he was officiating and used his position to influence the outcome of the game in the favor of what he betted.

Another famous scandal, nicknamed “Deflategate”, involving Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, was a perfect example of how equipment can be used to influence the outcome of a game. In this incident, game balls were deflated during the 2015 AFC Championship Game when the Patriots were on offense. This allowed wide receivers to easily catch the ball thrown by Brady, and also allowed Brady to throw the ball considerably further and easier. This resulted in a crushing 45-7 win for the Patriots.

The unfortunate reality is that the world of sports is also a world of corruption. If fans, coaches, and players alike want this to end, it will take a great amount of effort and vigilance throughout all sports communities, but it can be done.


Brendan Keane
staff writer

Graphics: Jessica Chang

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