Racial Bias In NBA Refereeing?

I’ve blogged before about my friend Justin Wolfers’ research on point shaving in college basketball and the death penalty.

Now Justin is back stirring up more controversy with a paper that claims that there is racial bias on the part of NBA referees, written up in the New York Times by Allen Schwarz. The claim of the paper is that Black officials call more fouls on White players and vice-versa.

I’ve read through the paper and could not find any mistakes. It appears to be carefully done. It mirrors findings John Donohue and I have in a different context. We found that when police departments hire more White officers, arrests of minorities rise, but not arrests of Whites. The opposite is true when more minority officers are hired.

One other thing worth noting. I have never seen a reporter (other than Dubner, of course) take more care to try to get the facts and interpretation right than Allen Schwarz did on this piece. He was in contact with me a number of times and even arranged to have the NBA’s counter-analysis evaluated by independent experts. Hats off to him for his reporting.


peter123

This is one of those examples where yes, they found a statistical significance, but not a practical one: As John Hollinger pointed out, Lebron James played 3,190 minutes this season, and racial bias would account for a whopping...11 extra fouls.

Fun idea for a study, but not an exciting result.

mtbube

What if the bias is due less to race but more with appreciation of a certain style of play? Maybe referees simply don't see the violations because of the way that they play themselves or think the game should be played. Were I a referee, I would tend to see certain fouls as a necessary component of the game (and therefore not fouls) based on my belief on how the game should be played. Ultimately, does this bias affect the outcome of the game? If the racial composition of each team is the same, then the bias by the referees, whether in favor of whites or blacks, would be null on the outcome of the game.

wintercow20

Isn't Joe Price a co-author? Would be nice to give him credit too.

Police

Clydes a knick hater. Compare his Enthusiasm and his replays to that of any other Knick announcer.
I remember during a game that maubury and Telfair was in that Clyde commented that Maubury was being "schooled" by his cousin. Very harsh words for someone he endorses now. Clyde's a knick basher. a BOOOO generator.

Let's go Knicks

Keith S

I saw the same phenomenon watching CNN anchors Wolf Blitzer and Lou Dobbs on CNN over supper.

In a sense, they "referee" election campaigns.

I could definitely see them pushing for the current underdog, McCain.

Michael Jordan Shoes

This is one of those examples where yes, they found a statistical significance, but not a practical one: As John Hollinger pointed out, Lebron James played 3,190 minutes this season, and racial bias would account for a whopping...11 extra fouls.