Wednesday, May 02, 2007

NBA: Racist Refs? [J. Mark English]

How long before this story catches the ire of the Rev. Al Sharpton?

Allegedly, a recent study reveals that the NBA referees foul calls may be based more on race, the on the actual violation.

Alan Schwarz of the Times has more:

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. They went on to claim 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.”

N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern said in a telephone interview that the league saw a draft copy of the paper last year, and was moved to do its own study this March using its own database of foul calls, which specifies which official called which foul.

“We think our cut at the data is more powerful, more robust, and demonstrates that there is no bias,” Mr. Stern said.

You can read more at your leisure at the New York Times website. However, please take note of this key paragraph:

To investigate whether such bias has existed in sports, Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price examined data from publicly available box scores. They accounted for factors like the players’ positions, playing time and All-Star status; each group’s time on the court (black players played 83 percent of minutes, while 68 percent of officials were white); calls at home games and on the road; and other relevant data.

So how did they account for which refs in the game made the call? The box score only shows which refs handled the game...but not who called which foul.

This is an apparent oversight.

This study is a silly use of time spent. Frankly, I find it absurd. And what is their solution? Only allow Asians to ref the game? Or Hispanics? What race would be more preferable?

By the way, allowing Asians to ref games would give Yao Ming an unfair that would not be a piratical solution.

This is defiantly one of those things that "grinds my gears".

Labels: , ,