Another week, another highly publicized example of unethical, unsavory, or unsportsmanlike behavior. Perhaps never before has a strong commitment to ethics been more important than it is today in business, sports, and society in general. Whether you label it unethical behavior, lapse in judgment, bending the rules, pushing the envelope, or just an innocent mistake, our society today seems to have increasingly little tolerance or sympathy for those who lie or cheat for personal gain (and an even greater willingness and ability to flush out bad behavior when it happens)…and if you get caught and then try to cover it up or lie your way out of trouble, then you should expect nothing but public fury and vitriol for your futile efforts.

This month’s prime examples are NBC’s Brian Williams and the one or more adult officials associated with the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars little league baseball team from Chicago, IL. The former was recently suspended without pay for six months and now faces a tarnished reputation and a very uncertain future in an industry where your professional integrity and reputation are paramount. It is baffling why such a highly-respected journalist felt compelled to embellish (some might use a different word than “embellish”) the story of his helicopter ride that fateful day in Iraq.

In the latter case, the likely motive is perhaps easier to comprehend–the coaches/leaders of the team strategically redrew or improperly measured boundary lines so as to field a stronger team, thereby increasing their chances for success. Never mind how or why they got caught, the reality is they did, and now they have been stripped of their national title by Little League International.

Horribly sad stories, but both situations could have been so easily prevented if the key participants would have simply done the right thing by telling the truth and playing by the rules.

While these are painful lessons for those involved, from another perspective it is gratifying to see such strong public sentiment against unethical and dishonest behavior.

For members of the RVA business community, the take away question is what steps is your company taking to demonstrate its commitment to business ethics? This will be the topic of an upcoming #RVAbizlaw TwitterChat. Stay tuned for more details.