The Ethics of Flopping

Upon searching through past blogs, I eventually came across one entitled “Strategy or Ethics”. In it, Kaitlyn discusses ethics and their place in sports, specifically soccer. She struggles with the question of tripping someone on a breakaway before they are in the box. On one hand, it is a proven and widely used strategy. The result is a difficult free kick, as opposed to alternatives, which range from a 1 on 0 with the goalie to ejection from the game via red card. With soccer and ethics in mind, I immediately thought of an ethical issue with tight ties to the sport- flopping. However, due to my lack of knowledge in soccer history, and a thrilling overtime Bulls’ win Tuesday night, I decided to approach flopping from the sport it seems to have affected to a similar extent, basketball.

Forty years ago, before the term “flopping” had been used in the NBA, Dave Cowens was so enraged after an opponent drew a charge on him that he chased the player down the court and tackled him! Cowens viewed the flop as dishonorable, unethical. The public shared a similar mentality. Today, watching five minutes of an NBA game without seeing an embellished fall is less likely than the Patriots getting through a season without a cheating scandal. It has become a part of the game. So, I ask you, is flopping unethical?

LeBron James is the best basketball player alive today. He will likely be remembered as one of the greatest of all time. He is paid incredible amounts of money to entertain the public through his sport. LeBron, the entertainer, also has a tendency to dramatize his performance. Not only is he following an important rule of the industry (no one wants to watch a lazy performance), he is being a competitor. Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cavaliers, brought LeBron to his team because he thought it gave them the best chance of winning. It is here that LeBron must make a choice. Does he unethically “destroy the sanctity of the game” by flopping, or unethically accept Dan Gilbert’s contract offer knowing he won’t employ one of the most effective point-accruing strategies in the league?

I dislike flopping and wish it wasn’t a part of the game, basketball or soccer, but my dislike does not stem from an ethical dilemma. In my opinion, flopping slows down the game and isn’t as impressive as solid defense. I do not find it, however, to be unethical. Over the course of time, societal views shift and ethical boundaries shift with them. Forty years ago, I may have considered it unethical to flop. Today, I have begrudgingly accepted it as part of the game. Because it has become so normal, it is my opinion that players no longer view flopping as a decision of ethics, but instead as just another regulation of the game. Referees are trained to watch for and penalize flops just as they are for any other rule breaking. Nobody accuses a player who receives a reach-in foul of playing unethically, but what is different about a flopping foul when both are clearly defined in the rules and regulations of the sport?


Here is a LeBron James flopping compilation. What do you think? Is this unethical? Just a part of the game? An Oscar worthy performance?


5 thoughts on “The Ethics of Flopping”

  1. Prior to your post, I truly had never heard of flopping and would have had no idea what it was. So, thank you for your definition and for educating me on this issue. I’ve been to most of the basketball games here at Bucknell and even there have noticed how often players seem to over-exaggerate when they get hit. You find that flopping is no longer unethical, and I’m not sure I agree. MIller would probably agree with your thought that if there are rules to stop flopping, then why not let the players do as they like and trust that the refs will do their job in return. I think we should probably hold the players more accountable and perhaps change the norm so flopping isn’t so widely accepted as part of the game.


  2. As a soccer player, I have been guilty of diving on several different occasions. I agree with your sentiments at the end of your post explaining how society has come to accept it as part of the game. Although it may be a little unethical, referees do have the authority to penalize the player for flopping. In soccer this will result in a yellow card which could affect your willingness to play as hard as you normally would in fear of getting a red. All in all, flopping has just become a part of both basketball and soccer.


  3. An insightful analysis. You touch on one of the perpetual issues I find in this class and these issues: does society create ethics? In other words, if we only rely on what is “acceptable” to a majority, we would never see what is wrong with racism, genocides, and other “obviously” unethical behaviors. So, it seems ethics should be defined and understood distinctly from the whims of the crowd. (ha, get it?).

    On the other hand, what happens in history, in societies, clearly shapes ethical considerations. So, how are the two related?

    As to the sanctity of a sport, I think the shift from amateurism to professionalism captures the difference from 40 years ago. When I play soccer “for fun” on Sundays, flopping bugs me because we are amateurs. There is no crowd to entertain (except the reluctant spouses and kids…). But it happens… amateurs emulate the icons.


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