Sunday, November 11, 2007


After one of his assistants was caught videotaping the New York Jets' defensive signals during a game, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, and his team was fined $250,000 and lost either a first-round draft pick or two second-round picks.

I asked my readers whether high-tech theft of an opponent's signs is simply part of the game in professional sports, and found them of at least two minds on the subject.

"Using technology and deception to try to determine what the other team is going to do constitutes a flagrant foul," writes Phil Clutts of Harrisburg, N.C., "and deserves severe punishment."

Some readers believe, however, that if every team steals signs, that makes it OK.

"Stealing is wrong," writes Lyman Woodman of McFarland, Wisc., "but if everyone agrees that, if you can get the signs within reasonable limits, then it isn't stealing."

Mary Beth Harris of Charlotte, N.C., disagrees.

"Just because everyone does it, it does not make it right," Harris writes. "Stealing is stealing, whether it is a penny, $1,000 or a signal."

And as far as Watkins Ellerson is concerned, the question of videotaped signals is merely the tip of the iceberg.

"Anything that happens in professional sports is immaterial from a morality point of view," Ellerson writes, "even use of so-called performance-enhancing substances ... I expect the worst."

Check out other opinions at SOUND OFF: ON FURTHER REVIEW , or post your own by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2007 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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