Racism in NBA Play Calling — Oh Really?

By Boyce Watkins
Updated: May 6, 2007

NBA Logo NEW YORK — When I saw the recent University of Pennsylvania study citing racism in NBA play calling, my reaction was like anyone else who watches sports: “No duh.”

I expressed this sentiment over the weekend with Rev. Jesse Jackson and Darth Vader himself, David Stern.

Yes, I did call him Darth Vader on the radio, since the man pimps his athletes like no other.

To bring you up to speed, the study found that fouls were more likely to be called on players by referees of another race. While there was some bias of black refs calling more fouls on white players, the strongest, and most significant bias was that of white refs calling fouls on black players.

The authors of the study go on to say that the difference “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.”

I also took the time to contact Wolfers, a fellow economist, about the study.

After reading his work, I can tell you this: The man is an academic stud. His PhD is from Harvard (and he was one of their top students), he took great pains to conduct his analysis, and his work has been carefully analyzed by Nobel Prize winners.

Quite simply, THE MAN IS NOT A QUACK, and he is especially immune from the critiques of boneheads like Charles Barkley, who probably spells the word “college” with a “j.”

Everyone asked why so many prominent players were coming out and refuting the Wharton study.

The answer was simple: Because those who agree with the study won’t say a word for fear of losing their jobs.

Like a good pimp, Stern puts serious financial beat downs on anyone who deviates from the company line.

Remember the fine he laid on Mark Cuban for even SUGGESTING that the refs might cheat?

If team owners are punished so severely, what do you think happens to players?

When it comes to NBA racism, nearly any basketball fan could write a book on the topic. Remember 1992, when Christian Laettner was chosen over Shaquille O’Neal for the Olympic Team? Years later, when they both played for the Heat, Laettner was so far down the bench that people thought he was a cheerleader.

Did you wonder how “Melt-down Nowitzki” had been predicted as the league MVP right after another white guy won the award for two years in a row? Not to say that these guys “ain’t tight”, but if they were black and Kobe were white, Kobe would have been considered the second coming of Jesus Christ.

My point is not to say that the NBA officials are bad people. David Stern is not a bad guy, just a greedy, ruthless businessman (just picture a white Don King).

But the bottom line reality is that racism is alive and well in the NBA, with the league serving as a rich man’s plantation.

Players need to become owners if they want to have leverage. They are doing all the shooting, but someone else is calling the shots. End of story.