I've read the various posts on the Suarez goal-line handball against Ghana with interest, especially because the reactions on both sides of the issue are so strong. Earlier today, I came up with an idea that I think might help clarify what people are talking about when they talk about Suarez. In criminal law, there's often a distinction between two kinds of laws: malum in se and malum prohibitum. The first (MIS) regulate things that our moral instincts tell us are wrong anyway--murder, rape, theft. Even if we didn't have laws regulating these things, we'd still feel that they deserved to be sanctioned. The second (MP) regulate things that aren't really intrinsically wrong (though they might be in some cases, so the line can be blurry), such as a speed limit. The law says you can't, for example, go over 35mph, and if you do, you may well get a ticket and have to pay a fine. But this isn't because we think going 36mph is always bad, just that we've chosen to regulate driving in that way for various reasons. So when people talk about Suarez, there are two different views afoot. The first is that the rule he broke was mere MP. Handballs on the line are not intrinsically wrongful, they are just like speeding--you break the rules, and you expect a fine, but we don't think you're a moral monster. By contrast, others take the view that what Suarez did was MIS; by depriving Ghana of a winning goal using his hands, he was soiling the spirit of the game and being deceptive. On this view, handballs on the line are more like murder or rape (though far far far less bad, obv.): they are wrongful and deserving of sanction regardless of what the rules may say. This, I think, helps to illuminate what people mean when they say Suarez "cheated." Some people are suggesting that he behaved morally wrongly, which is an idea that rests on the assumption that there are intrinsically sportsmanlike ways to behave, and that Suarez deviated from these behavioral norms. Others reject this view, arguing that rules in sports have no moral content, so that like a speed limit, their violation is always morally neutral so long as the violator is willing to accept his sanction. Thinking about the Suarez issue in these terms helped clarify for me why I think his behavior was not wrongful. I think the vast majority of sports rules are MP; that is, they are not expressive of moral judgments, but just designed to make the game play out in a given way. E.g., the offside rule--there's nothing wrong with a sport that allows goal-hanging (basketball does this). Rather, the rule exists to force play through the midfield and discouraging fast-break approaches. If that's right, then Suarez is the moral equivalent of the guy who drives 40mph in a 35mph zone: breaking the law but not committing a moral wrong. There are some rules that may be closer to MIS, such as no cross-checking in hockey, or no horse-collars in football, but these are all related to player safety, and derive from the pretty universal moral instinct that bodily integrity is important. A couple possible answers to this: First, one might say that not all violations of MP laws are created equal. So driving 40 in a 35 is no biggie, but driving 90 in a 35 is bad, and the magnitude of Suarez' play is what sets it apart. Perhaps, but the reason that we're worried about magnitude in crim law is because of risk--going 90 in a 35 is bad because it's dangerous. I don't see what was dangerous about Suarez' play. Second, one might say that there is moral content to sports rules. But as a generalization, this has to be false, b/c we allow fouls all the time, in soccer and otherwise--we just choose to sanction them. This is known as the "professional foul." There are some rules that are in place to protect players' safety, such as the no-high-spikes rule, and I suppose I'd object if a player were to say "I'm going to slide hard, break a guy's leg, and just accept my red as punishment." But again, we're talking about player safety and that's not at issue with the Suarez handball. Final point, one might say that Suarez was unsportsmanlike, because while there are often intentional handballs (e.g., players getting arguably fouled and then falling and cradling the ball to stop play regardless), this one was much much bigger in its impact and took away a sure goal. I suppose this is simply a matter of one's definition of sportsmanship. I think the norm in most sports is that if you're not being unsafe or threatening another player's bodily integrity, then you're allowed to do whatever you want, so long as you take the penalty associated with it (as Suarez did here). At the very least, it should be said that this is a pretty widespread practice; I can think of at least two instances where US players intentionally handled on the line to stop a late goal (Trittschuh 89, Gibbs 03). I hope this is helpful to others in thinking about this. Interested to hear what others think.