Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Fair Play or Damaging the Reputation of Youth?

By Jessica Silliman

Scott Mendez was a mid-level reporter at a national sports magazine. As one of the only Spanish-speakers on staff, he was assigned to investigate a Dominican boy playing in the Little League World Series.

The magazine suspected that the boy, Andy Dominguez, was older than his stated age and, therefore, ineligible to play in the 12-year-old World Series. Andy's dominant size and strength, in addition to his success on the field, contributed to the suspicions.

Scott was told to befriend Andy and find out any personal information that might shed light on his age, background and, obviously, his exceptional talent. Scott slowly developed a relationship with Andy.

"He was just a sweet, naove kid who was having the time of his life," said Scott. Andy and Scott became trusted friends.

Meanwhile, researchers at the magazine had found Andy's real birth certificate, which stated he was, in fact, over the 12-year limit. The birth certificate sent to the national Little League had been falsified by Andy's father.

Scott needed a comment from Andy and his family. He knew this was a big story and, therefore, other newspapers were likely to pick it up. He really liked Andy and knew that Andy was obsessed with baseball-it was his goal to eventually play in the Major Leagues. Scott feared what Andy would turn to without baseball. He felt that the situation wasn't Andy's fault and he didn't want to see Andy's face plastered on national newspapers.

"I worried about ruining his life," said Scott.

But Scott didn't have a choice-he had to tell Andy that, because his father broke the league rules, he would have to drop out of the Little League World Series and possibly forfeit rights to play within the league in the future.

After Scott broke the story, the other media jumped on it and, almost immediately, Andy's face was on the cover of newspapers everywhere. His reputation was tarnished and his future in baseball, which had once looked quite bright, was in question.

Discussion Questions:

  • Did Scott have a choice in publishing the story about Andy?
  • What are the benefits and harms of publishing the story?
  • Is Scott responsible for what might happen to Andy as a result of the story getting published?
  • If you were in Scott's position, how would you explain the situation to young Andy?
  • Who should be punished-Andy or his father?

Jessica Silliman was a 2006-07 Hackworth Fellow at The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

June 2007


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