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What That "Racist Refs" Paper Really Means

May 4, 2007 – 3:58 PM
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Bethlehem Shoals

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So earlier this week, the FanHouse and every other media outlet in the world brought you some shocking news: refs make racially-biased calls. The world ended, Stern got involved, and an unassuming academic paper became headline news.

The thing is, very few people read the actual study, and the media got it all wrong. Man on a Rant informs us that if they had, they might have actually gotten the point of the research:
I'm simply trying to point out that the very root of this "scandal" shouldn't have to do with whether white refs call more fouls on black players than on white players; it's how they call these fouls compared to black refs... If the study's most fundamental data shows that there is an ambiguous discrepancy between officials calling fouls (i.e. are white refs under-calling fouls on white players or are black refs over-calling them?), why aren't we discussing THAT finding instead of immediately pointing a finger of blame?
This is only a small excerpt of the post, which really deserves a little bit of your time. However, allow me to translate: The study's not out to prove that white refs are biased against black players. Black players get the same number of fouls called no matter who the refs are. When it comes to white players, there's no way of knowing if white referees are calling too few fouls or black refs are calling too many.

Basically, the fouls called on black players are only important as a contrast with those called on white players. What's at issue here is pro- or anti-white bias; black players aren't discriminated against, but white players might have an advantage because they aren't getting penalized like they should.
Filed under: Sports