Some of the wonderful things rattling around in this full brain 'o mine. UPDATED EVERY TUESDAY AND THURSDAY (or at least twice a week)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

NBA Referee's Racist?

Everyone's a rittle bit lacist...even NBA Refs.

I have to say, I’m surprised Mark Cuban probably didn’t already know this when he did all of his deconstructing of the referees a couple of years back. It is kinda funny that he owns one of the first teams to really diversify itself with players from many many different countries.

Regardless, I started reading this this morning on the Detroit News website, where I go first thing every morning to read everything I can about the Pistons. There it was, quoted from the NY Times original article:

“An academic study of the National Basketball Association, whose playoffs continue tonight, suggests that a racial bias found in other parts of American society has existed on the basketball court as well.

A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that, during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong.“

The article goes onto state that the “different rates at which fouls are called ‘is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game.’”

Crazy. David Stern must have seen this and flipped.

Truth be told, I agree with David Berri when he’s quoted saying ““I would be more surprised if it didn’t exist,” Mr. Ayres said of an implicit association bias in the N.B.A. ‘There’s a growing consensus that a large proportion of racialized decisions is not driven by any conscious race discrimination, but that it is often just driven by unconscious, or subconscious, attitudes. When you force people to make snap decisions, they often can’t keep themselves from subconsciously treating blacks different than whites, men different from women.’”

They re-ran the numbers, doing multiple different reports, but kept coming up with the same results. What’s the NBA to do besides vehemently deny? Most likely, nothing. There’s nothing you can do, as long as you have live people refereeing your games. It’s just going to happen. Still, this is just another public relations black eye for the NBA referees, most recently and notably the Joey Crawford blowup with Tim Duncan.

Are These Two Ref'd Differently?

By the way, the Times talked to Cuban, “We’re all human. We all have our own prejudice. That’s the point of doing statistical analysis. It bears it out in this application, as in a thousand others.” That’s one of the fun things about being in statistical analysis, the data doesn’t lie.

I always did think it was kinda funny to have a bunch of mostly middle-aged old white guys “policing” a mostly black league though…maybe it’s time to diversify more with the refs. Of course, if most of the players weren’t spoiled whiny brats on the court too, that would help as well. I think there’s a middle ground there somewhere, but I don’t see them getting to it anytime soon. Watch though, this won’t be the last time the refs will be called into question in these playoffs. Heck, I remember the firestorm last year dealing with Dwayne Wade getting every single call in the playoffs.

Just makes me want to watch something more noble as a sport, like Hockey…or even Professional Wrestling.

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