Forgive me for the title. I couldn’t resist. But seriously…
The way one approaches this latest NFL scandal carves out a nice little gem of an example for one studying Ethical Theory. Notice the particular questions and comments in the news to establish the degree of “wrongness” for deflating the balls below NFL standards. What makes this action “wrong” in the first place? Is it merely rule-breaking? Is it intention?
If you consider the character of sportsmanship to be paramount for determining the action then you might be harnessing Aristotle. Character and disposition matter. Are the players acting out of proper ambition and for excellence?
If you turn to the consequences of the action (was there an altered outcome?) then you lean towards a Utilitarian Ethic. The results of the action determine the rightness or wrongness. If the action did not cause any harm then the action was not “wrong.” Did the deflated ball cause the Patriots to win?
If you find that the principle governing action defines “right” (for example, one must follow regulations) then you most likely favor a Kantian position. The moral worth of an action hinges on a rational motive that can be universalized regardless of the consequences.
If you view football as a meaningless endeavor where grown men are paid astronomically to catch a ball and run to a set point while dodging other grown men in the process only to arrive at the other side of the field and then begin the process again but in the opposite direction until a certain time and then again at another date and then again for another season and then again the next year…well, you’re a Nietzschean.