Ethics of Fantasy Sports

By Nandan Srikrishna (’21)

Fantasy sports are very popular amongst sports fans and sports analysts alike. They connect fans to their favorite sports by allowing them to create a team of their own. This can give fans a deeper connection to a sport as well as increase their appreciation for the sport. Fantasy sports, especially fantasy football, transcend American culture taking place in schools, homes, places of work, and make continuous appearances in pop culture. Moreover, fantasy sports can connect strangers from opposite sides of the globe. Fantasy sports can be played in two main ways: for fun or for money. Some make small bets with their friends; however, some play for thousands of dollars. Fantasy sports have also created a new industry: sparking tv shows, podcasts, and even entire businesses. Despite the prevalence of fantasy sports in our society today, there are those who claim it is an unethical practice. 

One argument is that fantasy sports are parasitic in nature. For example, Chad Carlson, a sports philosopher, believes fantasy sports are “parasitic, second-order, or derivative games because they find life only by building off of real sports’ elements.” Calling fantasy sports “parasitic” implies they negatively affect the sport which they are based on. This, however, is not true. For example, fantasy football comes from football, but it is a separate entity in terms of its rules, scoring, and structure, and has its own separate culture, aside from the real game. 

Another real concern is the argument that fantasy sports affect the fandom of the game. For example, in normal football, the fans normally root for their own teams, like the Detroit Lions or the Seattle Seahawks. Teamwork is emphasized and as a result, the fans root for every player on the team. Fantasy football, however, somewhat undermines this quality of football as it emphasizes the individual. This then may lead fans to root against their own team if an opposing team has a player on their fantasy team. Though this doesn’t occur very often (and usually on a micro-scale), I have experienced this, so it is a possibility. Andrew Billings and Brody Ruihley reported that “41% of all fantasy participants indicated they would prefer a win by their fantasy team over their regular/favorite team.”

Though this is a valid argument, I think that fantasy sports overall help the real-life sports they are based on. For example, they drive interest in games that may otherwise be overlooked. Another beneficial impact of fantasy is the strong bonds it can create between you and players you would have otherwise not cared for. For example, I have grown fond of Travis Kelce, a tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, because he has been great for my fantasy team for the past two years. Furthermore, fantasy sports give fans a sense of control and accomplishment that they would have not otherwise had. This can come in the form of making tough calls about drafting players and making trades and having them pay off in the long run. Above all, the bond it creates between you and the people you’re playing with is tremendous. Whether it be your good friends or complete strangers, fantasy sports allows you to connect with others in a completely new manner that can create long-lasting relationships. 

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