Netflix Series “Bad Sport“ Highlights Corruption in Sports Worldwide
“Bad Sport,” a new true-crime series on Netflix, examines some of the biggest controversies and scandals in the history of sport. True crime and sports intersect in a six episode docuseries that examines global controversies and scandals with firsthand accounts from those involved. For anyone interested in sports, especially professional compliance officers, this series is must-see TV.
Geoffrey Chaucer, English poet and author, remarked in one of his Canterbury Tales that “greed is the root of all evil.” In turn, British historian and politician, John Dalberg-Acton, is perhaps best known for his remark, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Both greed and power are central in the Netflix docuseries, which reinforces that virtually all corruption in sports arises from these vices. While neither Chaucer nor Lord Acton were contemplating corruption in sport when they wrote about greed and power, their writing demonstrates a theme common in so much of the corruption we are seeing in sports today.
Each episode focuses on an individual scandal, each involving a different sport. Blogger Scott Hines notes that the gist of the series is that, “There are sports stories we remember, and the ones we forget, but just because we’ve forgotten them doesn’t mean the crimes are any smaller. Over the course of six, standalone films, Netflix’s ‘Bad Sport’ reveals stories that grabbed headlines in their day, but have largely slipped from the collective memory of sports fans.” While no attempt has been made by the films’ producers to offer steps that could be taken to prevent such scandals in the future, it is obvious that effective compliance and ethics programs could have gone a long way towards preventing and mitigating the massive wrongdoing featured in the films.
The following brief descriptions of the well-produced docuseries offer enthralling looks at six shocking scandals:
Episode 1 – Hoops Schemes – The players involved in the 1994 Arizona State University basketball point-shaving scandal explain why they chose to fix games;
Episode 2 – Need for Weed – Small-time marijuana dealer Randy Lanier decides to fund his passion for race car driving by taking his drug smuggling to a whole new level;
Episode 3 – Football-gate – A look at the shocking allegations that former Juventus director Luciano Moggi influenced referees in Italian football (soccer);
Episode 4 – Gold War – The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City is disrupted by controversy when a figure skating judge is allegedly pressured to rank Russia over Canada in the pairs’ competition;
Episode 5 – Horse Hitman – Contract horse killer Tommy Burns speaks about his role in the insurance fraud scheme, where wealthy horse owners would ask him to kill their show horses in order to defraud insurers;
Episode 6 – Fallen Idol – A look at South Africa’s charismatic cricket captain, Hansie Cronje, and the allegations of match-fixing that destroyed his reputation.
In summary, the ‘Bad Sport’ series covers monumental scandals in six very different sports – college basketball, professional car racing, Italian football, Olympic figure skating, show-horse competition, and South African cricket. The common thread that runs through these stories is that over time, small problems that could have been dealt with had they been identified early on, grew into large ones for the organizations involved and the principals who were ultimately found to have been the architects of the schemes.
Unfortunately, few of the many sports organizations that exist across the globe today have implemented truly effective compliance and ethics programs which could tend to prevent, detect and correct the type wrongdoing displayed in ‘Bad Sport.’ Only when sports organizations across all sports commit to implementing and establishing effective preventative programs can we expect to see fewer scandals like those featured in the series.