“It’s Not My Fault; It’s Not Serious”: Athlete Accounts of Moral Disengagement in Competitive Sport

in The Sport Psychologist
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This study was designed to assess athletes’ use of moral disengagement in competitive sport. We conducted semistructured interviews with 24 elite male and female athletes in basketball and taekwondo. Participants described transgressive behaviors in competitive situations and reasons for adopting such behaviors. Content analyses revealed that the eight moral disengagement mechanisms identified in everyday Life (i.e., moral justification, advantageous comparison, euphemistic labeling, minimizing or ignoring consequences, attribution of blame, dehumanization, displacement of responsibility, and diffusion of responsibility; Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 1996) were germane in sport. However, the most frequently adopted mechanisms in sport (i.e., displacement and diffusion of responsibility, attribution of blame, minimizing or ignoring consequences, and euphemistic labeling) differed somewhat from those considered most salient in everyday life (i.e., moral justification, advantageous comparison, and euphemistic labeling). Moral disengagement mechanisms linked to projecting fault onto others (“It’s not my fault”) and minimization of transgressions and their consequences (“It’s not serious”) appear to be especially prominent in sport. The findings extend the sport moral disengagement literature by showcasing athlete accounts of moral disengagement.

Corrion, Long, and d’Arripe-Longueville are with the Faculty of Sciences and Sport, University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis, Nice, France. Smith is with Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.