FanDuel - WFBC

May 02, 2007

Study shows racial bias by NBA referees: “Basically, it suggests that if you spray-painted one of your starters white, you’d win a few more games,” Mr. Wolfers said.

posted by SummersEve to basketball at 07:31 AM - 73 comments

Link took me to page 3. Here's the start page.

posted by yerfatma at 07:36 AM on May 02

Oops. Maybe the powers-that-be-could fix that for us. Or just read the ending. Here's the link to his paper and stats and stuff.

posted by SummersEve at 07:41 AM on May 02

The economists accounted for a wide range of factors: that centers, who tend to draw more fouls, were disproportionately white; that veteran players and All-Stars tended to draw foul calls at different rates than rookies and non-stars; whether the players were at home or on the road, as officials can be influenced by crowd noise; particular coaches on the sidelines; the players’ assertiveness on the court, as defined by their established rates of assists, steals, turnovers and other statistics; and more subtle factors like how some substitute players enter games specifically to commit fouls. The league’s study was less formal and detailed than an academic paper, included foul calls for only two and a half seasons (from November 2004 through January 2007), and did not consider differences among players by position, veteran status and the like. But it did have the clear advantage of specifying which of the three referees blew his whistle on each foul. “We think our cut at the data is more powerful, more robust, and demonstrates that there is no bias,” Mr. Stern said.

posted by yerfatma at 08:03 AM on May 02

Of course, Stern and Co. wouldn't provide the economists with the more detailed information about which referee blew the whistle, so they were unable to include that information. Then, Stern & Co use the exclusion of that information as the basis for their criticism of the study. I'm sure no one will see through that.

posted by bperk at 08:43 AM on May 02

"Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price claim that these changes are enough to affect game outcomes." Sweet! Get my bookie on the phone! How far in advance are officiating crews announced? I wonder if they took into account all the violations that aren't called, such as traveling and carrying the ball. Best quote from the article: "'Basically, it suggests that if you spray-painted one of your starters white, you'd win a few more games,' Mr. Wolfers said."

posted by scully at 09:44 AM on May 02

In all seriousness, I think there is some truth in the suggestion that all people have biases even if they are at a subconscious level. And if that is the case, it may be impossible to change any of this. Even having an equal number of officials on the court won't solve a problem, because people of both races may have these built-in biases. [Note that I am saying I don't know the answer, but I have been hearing a lot about studies suggesting that even the most enlightened of us has biases of which they may not even be aware.] The data for the study is very strong, however, the one very important piece of data they didn't have (that the NBA study did) is: "But it did have the clear advantage of specifying which of the three referees blew his whistle on each foul. The Penn/Cornell study could only go by the break down of race of the crew (0/3, 1/2, 1/3, 2/1, 3/1, 3/0) while the NBA could tell exactly which call was made by which referee. What I don't know is whether the NBA has a real reason to keep some of their data confidential. And I also found it interesting that the Penn/Cornell group used an anonymous former official to make the determination as to who was black and who was white. It will be interesting to see what happens after the article is peer reviewed.

posted by scully at 09:56 AM on May 02

How do they decide what's statistically significant? They're talking about a 2.5 to 4.5% break here. I'm not a statistician, but the discrepancy seems minor, especially considering the size of the data pools in question. I'm not saying they aren't onto something, but does the evidence really support their conclusion?

posted by Hugh Janus at 10:24 AM on May 02

If there is a ref out there that is calling more fouls on white players than black players, he should be fired. The only reason being that he would have to be calling fouls on people who are sitting on the bench. Economists are quick to try to link data trends with facts. Unfortunately life isn't that simple. You can't explain anything with just numbers. There are a lot of other factors that come into consideration that can't be quantified. I highly doubt that the NBA would eve take this shit seriously. Also, what happens if the player is 1/2 white 1/2 black? Who calls more fouls on Yao? Blacks or Whites? I'm not saying they aren't onto something, but does the evidence really support their conclusion? I would say that THEIR evidence supports THEIR conclusion, however they chose to ignore/ommit all of the factors that blow their conclusion out of the water.

posted by yay-yo at 10:47 AM on May 02

Economists are quick to try to link data trends with facts. Unfortunately life isn't that simple. You can't explain anything with just numbers. There are a lot of other factors that come into consideration that can't be quantified. Tell us what you can explain life with. This bespeaks a complete (though common) misunderstanding of what economists and statisticians try to do, one emphasized by the poor ability of the media to communicate it. The idea is that properly normalized numbers, ones well-targeted and designed with a solid theory, these kinds of numbers cannot lie and do reveal facts often at odds with accepted wisdom. If you think this doesn't work, tell it to Wall Street. If I have convinced you otherwise, than your best hope is to attack their approach or their data rather than simply stating it can't be right because numbers alone don't mean anything. I would say that THEIR evidence supports THEIR conclusion, however they chose to ignore/ommit all of the factors that blow their conclusion out of the water. Your emphasis is boorish. All evidence presented by an arguer supports their conclusion, otherwise they would have a different conclusion. You've presented a tautology as though it were insight. Furthermore, you've chosen to omit the factors you suggest "blow their conclusion out of the water." The Penn/Cornell study could only go by the break down of race of the crew (0/3, 1/2, 1/3, 2/1, 3/1, 3/0) while the NBA could tell exactly which call was made by which referee. Which is certainly looks like an advantage, but what if the lack of referee identification actually led to a conclusion the NBA couldn't see. What if the difference in foul calls results not from the race of a given ref but from the mix of races? It could be the refs call fouls not based on personal biases, but rather on what they perceive other refs' views on a call to be. I'm not a statistician, but the discrepancy seems minor, especially considering the size of the data pools in question. Hugh, I know it seems like nothing, but 2.5-4.5% may be a huge difference, depending on the amount of data and the noise level in the data. In a perfect world, given the size of the data, the difference would be 0%. Assuming the study successfully accounts for noise, that range does seem like a big gap. If we were to once again turn the argument a different way and say, "Black players commit 2.5-4.5% more fouls than their white counterparts", that would seem significant, wouldn't it?

posted by yerfatma at 11:04 AM on May 02

Even having an equal number of officials on the court won't solve a problem, because people of both races may have these built-in biases. Never bought this. Racial bias isn't innate. It's learned. Observing a room full of toddlers has convinced me of this. Racial bias is encouraged in society, but that doesn't mean it's naturally occurring. Black Americans elevate the sport, boast the largest percentage of participants, Basically still dominate the league (though the top end is a little more diverse now) and they're STILL discriminated against by the officials? Fuck me - can't buy a damn break. Stupid Earth.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 11:06 AM on May 02

In my extremely limited sample, I always felt the opposite was true. In Seattle for several years we had Brent Barry, who was as athletic as any brother in the game, but he never, ever got the benefit of the doubt on calls. He would get called for charging frequently on what appeared to me to be obvious blocking violations, I always felt the refs dinged him because they figured a honky couldn't be THAT athletic. It happened so regularly during his career here that I must have pointed it out to half a dozen friends.

posted by vito90 at 11:11 AM on May 02

Perhaps there is a bias against white players if, in fact, black players are committing 10% more fouls and they are only being called 2.5 - 4.5% of the time. Not unreasonable to consider that players from urban America could have a more aggressive playing style than European or South American whites. How does the study account for this possibility? And on and on and on....

posted by 1959Giants at 11:32 AM on May 02

That makes no sense '59Giants. If the urban style is more prone to fouls, why would that vary from game to game based on the racial composition of the officiating crew?

posted by bperk at 11:38 AM on May 02

Not unreasonable to consider that players from urban America could have a more aggressive playing style than European or South American whites. Interesting point. Not to derail the thread, but this is one of the things that makes officiating the World Cup (soccer) so difficult. The English play a more physical style of football, while the Portuguese fall over when the wind blows.

posted by scully at 11:43 AM on May 02

Hugh, I know it seems like nothing, but 2.5-4.5% may be a huge difference, depending on the amount of data and the noise level in the data. In a perfect world, given the size of the data, the difference would be 0%. Assuming the study successfully accounts for noise, that range does seem like a big gap. If we were to once again turn the argument a different way and say, "Black players commit 2.5-4.5% more fouls than their white counterparts", that would seem significant, wouldn't it? You all seem to be confused by the social science statistics term "statistically significant." It means that there is a greater probability that the variable being manipulated (in this case, the number of foul calls)is being influenced by the control variable (race of refs) than we would see if we looked at random games where we didn't know the race of the refs. In other words, the results are too significant to be random. This doesn't prove that the refs are biased. (We never use the word "prove" in the social sciences; we say "shows evidence for" instead.) It does show that either race influences number of calls, or the selection of a given mix of races among refs and foul calls are both being influenced by some third, as-yet-unknown variable. Nothing about this study suggests that African-American or non-white players COMMIT more fouls than white players. Having said my science bit, I agree with Weedy that racial biases aren't innate. They are, however, culturally transmitted. Unless you live alone in a cave, you've spent your life immersed in this culture and have therefore soaked up its biases. Anyone who says "I'm not biased" is lying or self-deluded. Period.

posted by ridadie2005 at 12:07 PM on May 02

I wonder if they did a study that included antagonism of the referees? There is a cultural difference here that needs to be included in the study. Considering what just happened between Ref. Joey Crawford and Tim Duuncan, I think they should have. Point in case, I am HUGE Pistons fan, been one since before my family moved here to Indiana in the early 90's. I'll tell you what, Rasheed Wallace's mouth begs for racial bias. He talks so much ying-yang he cant draw a foul, but he usually finishes a game with no less than 4 personnel fouls against him. Heres my point, I never remember players like Steve Kerr or Chris Mullin antagonizing the referees, black players on the other hand gripe at the refs non-stop, they try to show up refs when they disagree, just look at Stephen Jackson last night, he got ejected (again) for mocking the refs, he didnt even say anything, it was the sarcastic applauding that did him in, whites dont do that shit, its cultural. It is a fact that needs to be considered. If you just made a foul call and Sheed is in your face yelling and arguing, then when the fouled player misses a free throw Sheed disrespectfuly yells so even the TV-mics can pick it up "Ball dont Lie" (which he does it A-LOT!) That will irk any human being, let alone a referee, who considers himself in a position of power. Think about it, it happens enough to skew those numbers stated in the article, you know those whole 1% drops they mentioned (50% to 49%) You can disagree with me all you want on this particular point, but basketball is HUGE in Indiana, almost everyone plays, so I see this first hand on a regular basis just in pick-up games. Certian people have to front all the time, either they never foul anybody, or if they miss a shot its because of some "phantom" foul, or they just dont pass, etc. Dont worry though blacks, having played B-ball against ya'll for sometime now, I am used to the reverse racism, If I play against blacks who have never played against me, they automatically disrespect my game even before the tip-off. (Cuz they see a white guy) Then I swipe the ball from them or bust a shot in their grill, then I actually get respect, but I have to prove my game first... my point: racism is life, it has been since Adam & Eve and it isnt one particular race doing it against another, ALL races do it. This article, no suprise its the NY Times, doesnt tell me anything I dont already know by observing normal life, as compared to the NBA

posted by dezznutz at 12:26 PM on May 02

"...racial biases aren't innate. They are, however, culturally transmitted. Unless you live alone in a cave, you've spent your life immersed in this culture and have therefore soaked up its biases. Anyone who says "I'm not biased" is lying or self-deluded. Period." I agree. Here is an article that explains what I was trying to say about "subconscious" bias.

posted by scully at 12:34 PM on May 02

I wonder if they did a study that included antagonism of the referees? That was the only thing you said that didn't make my jaw drop, and actually contributed to the conversation. Referees are human and certainly can play favorites based on who gives them a hard time and who doesn't. But the rest of your screed is scary. You should have stopped with the first sentence, dezznutz.

posted by scully at 12:39 PM on May 02

yay-yo: You state something I think about everytime I hear a study being done. Scince biases: only in medicine are double blind studies mandatory, that means the left doesnt know what the right is doing. All other sciences their is a certian goal being sought after, an end to their mean, which skews true sceince. I did an arguemnt paper in college once about the legalization of marijuana. I found numerous studies like this one that found marijauna to be medicinal and basically harmless, I also found studies proving it had no medicinal value and was harmful to our bodies. Soooo how do you figure out who is right? Well I found out by researching a little more that studies saying it was bad was funded by the government, those stating otherwise were by special interest groups. Neither groups can actually be "trusted" cuz both groups have their biases. Same with this study, The NBA used real human refs and actual calls that each ref made, while the independent study could only use ratios; 3:0 2:1 1:2 etc. Well terrapin, the truth can be uncomfortable...I guess you dont play sports with a lot of minorities than, you would observe the same thing

posted by dezznutz at 12:44 PM on May 02

Well terrapin, the truth can be uncomfortable...I guess you dont play sports with a lot of minorities than, you would observe the same thing You'd be wrong. One of the differences is that I don't make dramatic stereotypes based on my personal observations, dezznutz. I don't assume that because the people I play with are of a different color that everyone of that color is the same. Because that isn't true, despite your attempt to dictate it as so. But you have given yourself enough rope. I assume you'll hang yourself with more racist rants.

posted by scully at 01:05 PM on May 02

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Benjamin Disraeli British politician (1804 - 1881)

posted by irunfromclones at 01:05 PM on May 02

Well terrapin, the truth can be uncomfortable...I guess you dont play sports with a lot of minorities than, you would observe the same thing Much like your entire point of bias affecting evidence, who are you to suggest that terrapin would observe the same thing? Maybe, like the anti-marijuana gov't (those bastards), you're skewing the data in exactly the same fashion. That is a fantastic piece of irony, however.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:06 PM on May 02

The argument that "blacks foul more" shouldn't hold much merit, because even if it is true racism would still bear out - in a hypothetical world where whites average 4 fouls a game and blacks average 3 a game, this article is suggesting that whites would be called for 5% more fouls if the referees were black. It doesn't matter if different races "naturally" commit more or less fouls when ascertaining our conclusion because it'd be taking into account "natural foul rates" (among a host of other things, as I'll get to shortly). It's not entirely implausible. I have to deal with it both ways in my job as a computer lab monitor. I'm a pudgy white male and I work with a skinny black female in a downtown and mostly black branch of a public library. It can be really interesting how different our experiences and actions in similar situations can be. All the time I find myself making assumptions about someone's level of computer knowledge, or politeness, or even general hygiene, after just a few seconds of sizing them up when they come in and ask for help. There are always exceptions to be sure, but I have to deal with bias (mine, and theres), every day. That said, Stern has access to better data, even if he doesn't play nice with it. I'm not going to say that Stern must be right since he's being so secretive about it, but Stern has the best data, so the best answer will eventually come from him or someone with access to his data. Really it all boiled down to this quote for me: The economists accounted for a wide range of factors: that centers, who tend to draw more fouls, were disproportionately white; that veteran players and All-Stars tended to draw foul calls at different rates than rookies and non-stars; whether the players were at home or on the road, as officials can be influenced by crowd noise; particular coaches on the sidelines; the players’ assertiveness on the court, as defined by their established rates of assists, steals, turnovers and other statistics; and more subtle factors like how some substitute players enter games specifically to commit fouls. I'd love to be smart enough to understand their methodology and get a look at their paper, because I'm dying to know how to predict how crowd noise and coaching on the sidelines translates to racist foul-calling. I'd likewise be interesting in getting a player's "assertiveness" rating based solely on stastical examination. I'm also interested in the assertion that some players are inserted solely to commit fouls.

posted by chmurray at 01:13 PM on May 02

Here's their executive summary (pdf). Hits on many of the topics that have been brought up. If you have time, here's the paper (pdf).

posted by SummersEve at 01:28 PM on May 02

Man, I can't understand the stats at all. It just looks like to me that white refs call fewer fouls than non-white refs. Period.

posted by graymatters at 01:30 PM on May 02

So the academics doing the study are a "special interest group" interested only in finding the outcome that supports them? And the NBA has no vested interest in the outcome of its study? I wonder whose suit is more expensive, the college prof or Mr. Stern's.

posted by olelefthander at 01:54 PM on May 02

Also, with all due respect to the nutz, not all residents of Indiana think that way. (Just another stereotype I've encountered in life.) ;)

posted by olelefthander at 01:55 PM on May 02

"white refs call fewer fouls than non-white refs" Interesting. I guess the "stop snitching" campaign is failing, then?

posted by mr_crash_davis at 02:07 PM on May 02

Just another reason not to watch the NBA. Go Pokes!!

posted by GoBirds at 02:18 PM on May 02

If I have convinced you otherwise, than your best hope is to attack their approach or their data rather than simply stating it can't be right because numbers alone don't mean anything. Spoken like a true economist... Numbers alone mean nothing. The numbers have to represent some type of fact, not just a ratio bases on someones assumptions. I could "create" a lot of data that proves anything I want it to. Economists are like accountants with no FASB or SEC. They have no one to check their work and therefore they often jump to conclusions that have no basis in reality. Whenever a "great" economist comes out with a book, it jumps to #1 for about a week. Until people actually read it and start thinking the same thing that this story made me think. Numbers alone are simply numbers...

posted by yay-yo at 02:21 PM on May 02

Sayyyyy. Does this mean Dwyane Wade is white? Or, at least he was in 2006. Numbers alone mean nothing. The numbers have to represent some type of fact, not just a ratio bases on someones assumptions. I could "create" a lot of data that proves anything I want it to. Economists are like accountants with no FASB or SEC. They have no one to check their work and therefore they often jump to conclusions that have no basis in reality. Whenever a "great" economist comes out with a book, it jumps to #1 for about a week. Well, that's a lot of nyah, nyah and not a lot of, well, facts. Apparently numbers mean shit, but your opinion requires no evidence. No dice! You are a poor scientist, Dr. Venkman.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:40 PM on May 02

Freakonomics checks in. Sayyyyy. Does this mean Dwyane Wade is white? What he said.

posted by gradys_kitchen at 02:45 PM on May 02

The numbers do not prove that white refs call more fouls on black players or visa versa. They are based on ratios. Ratios that were determined, not by actually watching the games, but by looking at other numbers (why didn't the guy watch a game or two?). That is where he lost me, and anyone else who doesn't believe someone simply because they graduated from Cornell. As I said before, if the numbers actually proved a bias, based on actual calls by the refs, This would mean something. but your opinion requires no evidence If I told you I was a Harvard grad; you wouldn't require me to have any evidence? Why do you require evidence to support my opinion but you just take this guys word for it that referees are biased?

posted by yay-yo at 03:17 PM on May 02

Why don't you read SummersEve link to the actual paper, yay-yo? It provides amble explanation on how they drew the conclusions that they did. Not exactly just taking some guys word for it.

posted by bperk at 03:30 PM on May 02

Yay-yo - read the Freakonomics link (above you post). They puts the science in social science. The posts also give a better idea how to suggest the study may not have included as many factors as are needed to reach such a conclusion. Ratios that were determined, not by actually watching the games, but by looking at other numbers (why didn't the guy watch a game or two?). That is where he lost me, and anyone else who doesn't believe someone simply because they graduated from Cornell. I'm not sure watching the games is at all scientific from the broader point of view. Would you watch and determine data to omit based on what you saw? Then you've corrupted the data. This is not good in economics. As for the Cornell thing - well, I certainly wouldn't put myself in the category of Ivy League sniffer, but I sure would hope that if a dude was going to cut me open and take out an organ that he/she would have gone to medical school. Dig? If I told you I was a Harvard grad; you wouldn't require me to have any evidence? If I told you I was Sheriff and had a badge and a gun, would I have to arrest you for you to believe me? I'm sorry. My mother told me not to answer a question with a question. Sorry, Mom. The numbers do not prove that white refs call more fouls on black players or visa versa. Lastly - you're correct. The numbers show that white refs have called more fouls on black players and vice versa. The numbers do not say that the refs are racially profiling, nor do they indicate or imply causation. The numbers simply show what has happened.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:33 PM on May 02

Why do you require evidence to support my opinion but you just take this guys word for it that referees are biased? No one did. That guy showed up with evidence. You have yet to do so and you keep bringing up irrelevant stuff in the hopes we'll forget.

posted by yerfatma at 04:19 PM on May 02

I apologize, but I promise this will be my last response... The numbers simply show what has happened. The numbers show how many fouls have been called on black or white players when the mix of referees is 3 white 0 black, 2 white 1 black, etc.... They do not show how many fouls a white ref has called on a black player or how many fouls a black ref has called on a white player. Am I wrong about that?

posted by yay-yo at 04:40 PM on May 02

This is where we are as a society. There has been a consistent and persistent attack on science by people who don't like its findings, and now many people think (or at least assert) that their opinions or anecdotal observations are every bit as relevent and insightful as true empirical research. It's like Colbert said, "The facts are biased."

posted by olelefthander at 04:41 PM on May 02

It's good to see a link to the paper here; my question about the significance of a seemingly small percentage was honestly out of ignorance, and I should be able to clear that up when I read it. I question the wisdom of the social scientist's claim about painting black players white, though. Sounds like he is arguing causality and accusing refs of racism. It's probably a misrepresentation to boil down a deep statistical analysis to something so glib.

posted by Hugh Janus at 05:05 PM on May 02

I think they are biased the worst against Mexicans. See, e.g., Eduardo Najera who gets tons of fouls called on him.

posted by dios at 05:15 PM on May 02

Am I wrong about that? Read the link to find out.

posted by yerfatma at 06:39 PM on May 02

2.5 to 4.5 %? Thats about the margin of error in most studies, polls, and tax returns. Its not even a cost of living increase. That means that at least 95.5% of the calls are right. I am having a hard time seeing the signifigance here even after reading all the posts. Or maybe because I read all the posts...

posted by irunfromclones at 07:33 PM on May 02

welcome to SpoFi, dios.

posted by scully at 07:36 PM on May 02

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Benjamin Disraeli British politician (1804 - 1881) All I know is that's an awful long time to be a politician.

posted by jojomfd1 at 08:02 PM on May 02

2.5 to 4.5 %? Thats about the margin of error in most studies, polls, and tax returns. Apples and oranges though: there's a margin of error in a poll because they sample 2,480 people or some such number and say that number should represent the population at large within a tolerance of x%. Anything other than 0% here (relatively speaking) is significant. Remember they looked at all the data (over a few years), not a slice of it.

posted by yerfatma at 08:22 PM on May 02

Deez..... Maybe, just maybe the "brothers" are "griping" because they are tired of the damn racism. Who the hell do you think is more likely to be tired of being discriminated against? Look at how offended you get when the "brothers" "dis" you before a game of "b-ball". Then when you drill a "J" in their "grill", you then get the respect you feel you deserve. I can see how it would frustrate you, with "honkys" being held down by 400 years of oppression when it comes to pick up games. You're helping to prove this study by adding obvious evidence like "brothers argue more", and reminding us that there have been several situations where a black player has only clapped and been ejected from a game. They can't argue, disagree, get mad at, or clap about a call. How do you suggest they get their respect? In the manner which you got it? By showing them up (like you do the "brothers" with your smooth game and awesome moves)? Quick side note, there is no such thing as "reverse racism". Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) - rac·ism /?re?s?z?m/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[rey-siz-uhm] Pronunciation Key - –noun 1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others. 2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination. 3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. Instead of "reverse racism", you might say, when Black people do the same shit to (your race here) that police, refs, teachers, voters, prosecutors, and judges have been doing do them for a long ass time. Point in case: Hey Mike Vick's cousin that sells weed also has dogs that fight. VICK DID IT, BAN HIM. Hey white refs call more fouls on black players. Bullshittttt, congressional Spofi hearing to prove that this is bullshit. Even with the evidence presented to prove the theory, note the manner in which some forcefully disagree. Even going as far as saying, "OK, maybe they do, but what do you expect, those "brothers" are always arg-ga-inn with the poor defenseless white refs. The "brothers" argue, so the refs cheat. I don't see the big deal".

posted by Bishop at 11:12 PM on May 02

I have to admit, you guys are right. NBA officials are biased. Against KOBE BRYANT. If you don't believe it, watch a replay of the game tonight. The NBA must have already decided that we need to watch Phoenix play against San Antonio. FUCK THE NBA. The man is the BEST player in the WORLD, and he should be able to get to the free throw line in a FUCKIN ELIMINATION GAME.

posted by yay-yo at 12:00 AM on May 03

I can see how it would frustrate you, with "honkys" being held down by 400 years of oppression when it comes to pick up games. Bishop, of all the things you've said that I've read on SpoFi,(some of which I agree with in principle but not in presentation) the above is the funniest thing I've read. Maybe it's because it's late and I'm still looking at several more hours of overtime tonight, but I really enjoyed that line, maybe a little too much. Thank you Bishop, sincerely.

posted by ampto11 at 12:00 AM on May 03

There has been a consistent and persistent attack on science by people who don't like its findings, and now many people think (or at least assert) that their opinions or anecdotal observations are every bit as relevent and insightful as true empirical research. Statements like this bug me. I think that as a society we are in poor shape if we continue to cling to a model of "empirical objectivism" in science when the methodology and assumptions of such an approach has been more than effectively critiqued in numerous disciplines within the scientific community. In fact, many have thought such a view has been untenable for nearly 1/2 a century. Scientists who still cling to this model could be labeled "scientific fundamentalists." There is no purely objective study, no "true empirical research" even within the hard sciences. We need to let this cult of (complete) objectivity die, as it is functioning more and more to simply belittle and mock people who see through the inadequacy of it. Science has replaced religion in academia as the new "faith." Try as they might to be completely detached from the world winthin which they research, they still have "faith" that their method is fullproof. All that said, i do agree that there is great value in such studies, and they provide good ways to understand ourselves, society, and the world we live in. This study for example, should cause us to ask tough questions about the likelyhood of discrimination among NBA officials. Also, people should have more than a simple anecdote to back up their opinions. My point is that we need to quit accepting science as infallible or even primary in how we form our opinions, especially as it does connect to complex social issues like racism. End rant now.

posted by brainofdtrain at 12:26 AM on May 03

Dios! (From a onetime metafilter lurker.) Does this explain the Boston Celtics title in 1986? Eight of the 12 players were white. As many as 10 white players at one time on that '86 Celtics team, according to the book "The Selling of the Green."

posted by Newbie Walker at 12:56 AM on May 03

Point in case: Hey Mike Vick's cousin that sells weed also has dogs that fight. VICK DID IT, BAN HIM. Actually, Bishop, I went back and re-read all the comments in the thread you referenced, and whaddaya know, it looks to my untrained eye like nobody called for Mike Vick to be banned at all. rcade did make a comment that if there was any truth to this story, Vick could be looking at a ban, given Goodall's propensity for busting out the banhammer. But rcade probably said that because he's out to get Vick, eh? Sorry dude, I'm just pissed off that the Man's been keeping me out of pickup basketball games for the past 400 years. I concur with ampto...that was pretty damn funny.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 06:24 AM on May 03

Remember when I said the media does a bad job communicating these kinds of ideas*? Here's what I mean. And that's Bob Ryan, who's actually a good columnist. He even works in the non-starter Yao Ming argument. * You don't? Just because it was in the middle of a giant ramble?

posted by yerfatma at 06:54 AM on May 03

Bishop, of all the things you've said that I've read on SpoFi,(some of which I agree with in principle but not in presentation) the above is the funniest thing I've read. Third. That had me laughing. Bishop for the win!

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:47 AM on May 03

Stephen Jackson last night, he got ejected (again) for mocking the refs, he didnt even say anything, it was the sarcastic applauding that did him in Actually, that was Baron Davis that was ejected for his 'sarcastic applauding'. Dont worry though blacks, having played B-ball against ya'll for sometime now, I am used to the reverse racism It's a damn shame to see that there are people that still think this way. Just sad.

posted by BornIcon at 09:36 AM on May 03

And that's Bob Ryan, who's actually a good columnist. Let's wipe out 10 years of research because Wade went to the line a lot in a six game period. And thats just the tip of the silly iceberg. But at least he can explain his argument. Screamin' A, on the other hand, can't even do that.

posted by SummersEve at 10:01 AM on May 03

Screamin' A, on the other hand, can't even do that. - SummersEve You must have missed this part of his article. I think it says it all. "Especially when we're getting a perceived - as opposed to a real - problem."

posted by yay-yo at 11:22 AM on May 03

Checked out the link to Stephen A. Smith's column, SE. What was it that Stephen A. wrote that you're in disagreement with? He made some solid points ("reports like this serve to alienate and polarize instead of mobilize and bring people together.") and anyone that's a minority can understand the whole "not being able to hail a cab" thing, at least I know that I can.

posted by BornIcon at 11:27 AM on May 03

You must have missed this part of his article. I think it says it all. "Especially when we're getting a perceived - as opposed to a real - problem." You can answer this contention quite effectively with the words, "sez you." Who died and made Smith the boss of what's a real problem, anyway?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:01 PM on May 03

I'm in disagreement with about everything Stephen A. said. First, his summary of the research's conclusion is wrong. Second, I disagree with his conclusion that it is a waste of time. I find it fascinating that in a sport with as much diversity and as much opportunity for black people, there is still a bias. The only way to ever work on eradicating such biases is to acknowledge their existence. Maybe it will encourage people to wonder if they themselves have such unconscious biases. That sort of enlightenment seems more likely in something like this rather than a very charged situation. In addition, Stephen A's position makes no sense. He says that white folks are already worried about what they can and cannot say, now this makes white folks even more concerned. Whatever. How do we go about eliminating race as a taboo topic if we stay away from discussions about it?

posted by bperk at 12:04 PM on May 03

Who died and made Smith the boss of what's a real problem, anyway? Like us, I think he was giving his opinion on the subject but I could be wrong. How do we go about eliminating race as a taboo topic if we stay away from discussions about it? Race will always be a taboo topic so eliminating it from discussion will not happen for a very, very long time if never, that's just reality. I personally have no problem with a person's skin color since I'm aware that there are people of every race that are good & bad and I'm sure that some of you would agree. He says that white folks are already worried about what they can and cannot say, now this makes white folks even more concerned. It's the truth. You may not agree but let me throw out an example: A friend of mines is an apprentice in the plumbers union. They had to let this girl go (she's black) because she wasn't performing up to par. My friend (he's white) was told that he has been let go too but not because he wasn't doing good work but because they're afraid that she would use that she's a woman and that she's black as the sole reason she was terminated. Afraid that she wouldn't say that she left the torch on, multiple times but would use the race and sex card as her downfall. Small example but when my friend told me this, I just laughed. This is the way of the world and race is a factor on so many levels and when bperk brought up this question, I thought of this story my friend told me.

posted by BornIcon at 12:33 PM on May 03

As far as I can tell from the paper, all black crews call more fouls than all white crews, on both races. Additionally, white players are "punished" by all black crews more than black players are by all white crews. It's right there in table 3. None of the numbers, with perhaps the exeception of all black crews foul rates on white players, seem significant, since in all cases but one they're within .1 fouls per 48 minutes. It is entirely plausible that i'm looking at the data wrong, but as far as I can tell when you base it on raw fouls per 48 minutes the assertions are not there - meaning that evidence of racism has to be introduced by all the "control variables" they're implementing, right? At any rate, the more I look at this the more it seems necessary to know which referees were working which games. It seems more likely that individual referee patterns are a better indicator of racism than group composition of the crew. While they probably want to assert that *all* referees are biased to a minute degree and therefore the aggregate effect results in just a wee bit o' racism, as an uneducated basketball fan I find it more likely that individual referees are more or less likely to display bias. The NBA probably already knows this and it's likely a factor in who sticks around for a long time as a ref. It's an interesting study but it's silly if they don't know who is calling the fouls.

posted by chmurray at 12:40 PM on May 03

BornIcon: Race will always be a taboo topic so eliminating it from discussion will not happen for a very, very long time if never, that's just reality. I think you misunderstood what bperk said, which was: How do we go about eliminating race as a taboo topic if we stay away from discussions about it? ...which is quite different from eliminating race as a topic. The way I would have said it is, race is a charged topic, and how do we ever remove that charge if we refuse to discuss it? The answer is...we don't. Furthermore, it seems (at least in SpoFi) that, on the subject of race/racism, the number of comments that address the subject is outnumbered by the number of comments stating that we shouldn't be talking about it.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:51 PM on May 03

My friend (he's white) was told that he has been let go too but not because he wasn't doing good work but because they're afraid that she would use that she's a woman and that she's black as the sole reason she was terminated. That's a silly story. I have heard the same story a million times in a bunch of different ways. I always have the same reaction. Either they are giving your friend a line (or your friend is giving you a line) or they are ignorant of the law. The onus of proving discrmination is on her, not the other way around. It is a huge uphill battle to prove even when it does occur. They are rarely successful. So employers are either being paranoid or folks are making up shit. I guess such reverse discrimination stories are an easy excuse for people to blame the fired black woman (or black people or women as a whole), rather than their employer for such a stupid decision (if everyone's facts are correct).

posted by bperk at 01:16 PM on May 03

The bigger point here is that the findings of the study don't expose the NBA as a racist insitution, but rather examine the idea of bias in decision-making. The fact that they used the NBA as part of the study is not the point of the study. It appears to best fit the criteria needed (different groups, pressure and speed in decision making) to collect applicable data. The conclusion is that there are unconscious bias' that affect decision making and they are often expressed most notably in times when decisions need to be made quickly. It is not a study of racism, nor a condemation of the NBA. So all you people out there suggesting the bias is in the study should probably understand the findings of the study before you start claiming what the bias is, and how easily twisted the data can be. So there. The comment attributed to the author about painting players white, is more or less unfortunate, but may be simply a case of promotion. Nerds want attention? Beer? Chicks? More grant money?

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:19 PM on May 03

That's a silly story It very well may be but it so happens to be a very true story at that, my friend. I think you misunderstood what bperk said You're right LBB, I did misread what was written, that's my bad.

posted by BornIcon at 01:28 PM on May 03

Quick side note, there is no such thing as "reverse racism". Tell that to the FOP and the IAFF who lead the nation in these type of litigations, and fights against hiring practices. Tell me why then because I am white, and scored 17th on my civil service test, the person who was hired before me the newspaper read: " of all possible final candidates______ scored the lowest, affirmative action worked for him." I even had more training. This was in 2001. Is it his fault, hell no, he just wanted the same job. I wouldn't have turned it down either if I was him. So don't sit here and spout off that there isn't such thing as reverse racism. Go get a civil service job, you'll see it everyday.

posted by jojomfd1 at 04:37 PM on May 03

The bigger point here is that the findings of the study don't expose the NBA as a racist insitution, but rather examine the idea of bias in decision-making. The fact that they used the NBA as part of the study is not the point of the study. ... It is not a study of racism, nor a condemation of the NBA. Exactly. Everyone needs to understand that. This isn't just a critique of the NBA, which is why Stevie A.'s column is so goofy. He's completely missed the point. I probably should have worded the original post differently but I went for dramatics instead.

posted by SummersEve at 05:30 PM on May 03

So don't sit here and spout off that there isn't such thing as reverse racism. I think the original point is that racism is racism. There's no "reverse" of it. The reverse of being racist is not being racist. Calling something "reverse racism" suggests that hatred of minorities is an irreversible fact of life.

posted by yerfatma at 05:58 PM on May 03

Thanks

posted by jojomfd1 at 10:28 PM on May 03

I thought it didn't exist.

posted by jojomfd1 at 12:16 AM on May 04

Oh, come on, jojo. Just because I call something "flammable" doesn't mean that "flammable" is a word, and just because I can type the words "reverse racism" doesn't mean that it's not a nonsense term. In stories of so-called "reverse racism", there are often some important facts omitted, and many of the "facts" that are presented are anecdote or unsupported assertion instead. In the example of your case, you know that you scored 17th on the civil service exam; you believe that someone who was hired before you had less training and scored lower. You assume that that means he was unqualified, and further, that civil service exam scores and training are the only things that go into making a qualified candidate for this position. Anyone who's ever sat on the other side of the hiring desk will tell you that there are plenty of other things that go into making a qualified candidate, and that race isn't one of them. What about prior experience, just as one example? Last year, I was applying for a contracting position with a New York state agency. They have a "points system", which I believe is pretty typical for government agencies. For this specific job, there were a total of 120 points, all relating to work experience, knowledge of specific technologies, and educational level. The way this process works is, you specify what your qualifications are in each area, and the person reviewing the application decides how many of the possible points to award you (so, for example, they would decide how many of the 10 points for "direct experience with project management principles and process" you get). Then the total is added up, and you've got a score, based on areas that they believe would indicate whether you're basically qualified for the job. Then they take their top-scoring candidates, bring them in for interviews, and start to consider other factors. Race might be one of them, veteran status certainly is, and then there are all kinds of fuzzy factors like interpersonal skills But the point is, at that point, everybody is qualified. Talk of "more qualified" and "less qualified" makes no sense, because everybody made the cut, and on the on-paper skills, is qualified to do the job. So when a white candidate who scored 110 points is not hired, and a black candidate who scored 105 points is hired, it's stupid to bellyache about how a "less qualified" candidate was hired and that it must be "reverse racism". It's not an exact science -- you draw a line because you have to, and people who are close to the cutoff line could go both ways. But, by the same token, you have to acknowledge that a score of 110 doesn't tell you that a candidate will work out better than one who scored 105. The other thing about these anecdotes is that they're an individual experience. They don't show a pattern. Back to the subject of the thread, the authors gathered a lot of data and did a lot of analysis, and they think they see a pattern. You're doing the opposite: looking for a pattern in a single data point. What's that you say? You heard another story? And you know "lots of people" that this has happened to? I'd suggest you try to gather names and facts -- because, you see, the thing about stories is, they travel. People repeat them and spread them, facts get blurred and embellishments added, and an individual can hear many slightly different "I heard about this guy" stories, all of which ultimately had their origin in the same anecdote, but that have become distorted enough in the repetition -- just like a game of telephone -- that the individual now believes that he/she has heard dozens of stories about dozens of cases of the same horrible thing. And gosh, if that doesn't make a trend, I don't know what does.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:48 AM on May 04

Another NBA problem - or at least potentially. Wolfers claims there is a bias in officiating, i.e., black officials call more fouls against white players and white officials call more fouls against black players. Since the media and others have very little interest in the former - it is the latter they will focus on. If the NBA attempts to try to favor black players statistically, white officials will be expected to call at least as many fouls against white players as they do against black ones. Better to call a poor game than endure a media circus and termination. The NBA can appoint someone to keep track of these new statistics during every contest to ensure it will be a politically correct game. Potential problems could exist at the end of games where they discover that they need to call some more fouls on white players and there are not any on the court. This could result in forcing a team to substitute a white player in the game for the purpose of calling fouls against him. The NBA is bias in the way it calls fouls but Wolfers missed the mark. Prior to 1980 the NBA had trouble even getting a game-of-the-week on TV. People preferred to watch re-runs of Gilligan's Island rather than the NBA. Then Bird and Johnson entered the league and interest increased. The NBA recognized that they could market individual players and increase fan base. This has resulted in making their top players even better and thus more marketable by favoring them in the officiating. This adds an exhibition element into the game. No other sport attempts to favor its top players by altering the rules for them. Baseball, for example, does not move the fences in for the top hitters or expand the strike zone for the best pitchers. While the NBA currently favors its top players they have also been bias against individuals - Sarunas Marciulionis for example. When this guy came into the NBA his opponets could practically maul him without being called for a foul. The NBA felt they would punish Marciulionis for having the audacity of defeating the United States in the Olympics. The NBA has since changed its tune and recruits players worldwide. Wolfers research appears to be little more than someone trying to get their 15 minutes of fame by applying the "who doesn't fall for the race card" theory. Since Wolfers is focusing on statistics not being equal he should mention that the NBA, with over 80% of its players black, could be considered one of the most racist organizations in the US.

posted by longgreenline at 04:34 PM on May 05

No other sport attempts to favor its top players by altering the rules for them. I think every sport has this to some degree. Top players in baseball are probably more likely to get a call than somebody fresh out of AAA. Anyone who watches hockey can attest that star players often benefit from somewhat questionable calls. Football stars such as Chad Johnson may get away with some of the bumping and pushing downfield that other players will get flaged on immediately. I think it has been pretty clear in the NBA that the stars get favored by the officials, Wade in last year's finals was a pretty clear example. However, this star player bias occurs in every sport. It is simply part of the game.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 09:04 PM on May 05

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