Nick Wass/Associated Press
A TikTok video of franchise football star Patrick Mahomes’ younger brother, Jackson, dancing on the number of deceased Washington Football Team player Sean Taylor has drawn a lot of ire on social media outlets. People have criticized the young man’s tone deafness for dancing on the number on the very day Taylor’s number was retired in his honor and his family was in attendance. People are also questioning team leadership and FedEx field management for allowing anyone in this area of the stadium.
The uproar reveals one of the limitations of the rights ethical lens, as the competing rights of individuals (Jackson Mahomes) or groups of individuals (Taylor’s family) conflict. Should FedEx field have allowed the number to appear on the grass in a venue like a stadium where it is likely to be walked on repeatedly? Was consideration given to how Taylor’s loved ones and fans might respond to this choice? These seem to be the questions people are asking on social media.
What responsibility does a user of TikTok have in this conflict? Is a service allowing for repeated, ongoing self-promotion ethical? Some will point to the creative outlet TikTok offers and the accessibility to an audience for amateur videos. But this example reveals the downsides to amateur creative production as people who do not develop content professionally may not be as skilled at thinking of the downstream effects of what they are creating. Further, it’s likely that TikTok has addictive design features like many social media platforms, and there are even recent reports it may be creating tics in young people.
Other ethical lenses unpack this dilemma more robustly than the use of just one. The care ethics lens asks us to consider the relationships we have and the emotions and feelings of people in those relationships. Though Jackson Mahomes does not play in the NFL, he is a member of its community and could have been more thoughtful in his choice to record a video at a game. The FedEx stadium managers certainly should have considered the memorial’s placement and the likelihood of people walking on it regularly. The virtues lens also offers something to the younger brother of a football star. Does Jackson Mahomes want to be known solely for leveraging his brother’s fame to turn a spotlight on himself? And the common good lens suggests that norms around social media should and are changing as society becomes more aware of the damages inflicted on vulnerable people, which includes children.