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Facts & Myths: Discrimination in the NBA

NBA teas choose players that embody the race of their fans- FACT (Burdekin, Hossfeld, Smith)

  • White players are significantly more likely to be traded than black players
  • Black players are more likely to be traded from a team located in a city with a large white population
  • Matching a team's racial composition to the racial composition of the market area increases home game attendance and revenue

Salary Discrimination (Yang & Lin)- REVERSE SALARY DISCRIMINATION- FACT

  • International players are more likely to accept an offer with nationality salary discrimination because it would be much higher than the salary they would receive in their home country or other leagues (13-18% lower on average)
  • Pay for US White players is ~16% less than non-White players, after controlling for personal characteristics and performance

Stereotypes of Asian-American Basketball Players?

In an observation of a Pacific Coast Youth Japanese-American basketball league

  • Parent comment- "Asians are just good at school. They're smart."
  • 6th grade player- "A lot of people think that Asians are a lot weaker, shorter and we're only good at stuff like martial arts."

Unquestionably, there is a lack of Asian Americans in US professional sports, especially basketball, but is this a product of discrimination and stereotypes or is this simply because there are less Asians playing sports at higher levels?

There is frustration among the Asian population about the lack of Asian representation in professional sports. Young Asian-American athletes wish that there were professional players that they could relate to.  As one college student put it, "I kind of wish we had someone there that was a true Asian American. I wish that we were more well represented."

(From http://www.csw.ucla.edu/publications/newsletters/2010-2011/article-pdfs/CSW_OCT2010_Chin.pdf)

All in all, I find the topic of discrimination in the NBA to be interesting. I guess I never really thought about how teams would look at the race of their fan base when choosing players, but it makes sense that to fill their seats, they would want players that their fans relate to and have a connection with. I also found it surprising that when it comes to NBA player salaries, white players earn about 16% less than blacks, after controlling for performance and other variables: does this constitute reverse discrimination? And, why aren't there more Asian players in the NBA? Is it related to skill, or does discrimination play a role as well?

Info from:

Burdekin, Richard, Hossfeld, Richard & Smith, Janet. "Are NBA Fans Becoming Indifferent to Race? Evidence from the 1990s." Journal of Sports Economics, 6 (2005): 144-159. Web 20 Feb 2012.

Yang, Chih-Hai & Lin, Hsuan-Yu. "Is There Salary Discrimination in the NBA?: Foreign Talent or Foreign Market." Journal of Sports Economics, 13(2010): 53-75. Web 20 Feb 2012

 

Comment #1 has been removed
April 4, 2012  09:24 AM ET

I think it is pretty obvious how much the NBA discriminates against players in various ways. Whether it be through refereeing or salary, there's often discrimination of non-whites and African Americans. The league is nearly 80 percent African American, and if you look at the labeled "super stars" like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, and Amare Stoudemire, etc, this just reinforces how one-sided the league as a whole has become. Dirk Nowitzki or even Steve Nash are considered super stars, yet they most likely don't get as many jersey sales as LeBron or Wade.
As for Jeremy Lin, it is true that he has to work much harder to prove himself. He may not be a super star, but he's brought something to the table for his team that other players have not been able to. He certainly took the team on his shoulders and helped much more than Anthony did as the point guard. Because he isn't afraid to drive the ball to the basket, opposing players foul him hard, and maybe 60 percent of the time he gets a foul call (how many times has he had a bloody nose since he started?). This may be because he's new to the league and needs to know how fouls won't always be called, but it could also be because he's an Asian player, and the league's referees want to keep the "Linsanity" under control and keep him in check. He isn't at the level of LeBron or Kobe, and hasn't spent the time in the nba proving himself, so it seems that referees take this into account and try to make it harder on him. Certain refs or nba officials may think that Lin won't be as good as other "super stars", who are mostly African American, so they want to divert attention away from Lin and focus on African American players since, after all, they make up over 3/4 of the league, and so they need to appeal to the fan base whose composition is about the same.
In this sense, stats can only go so far. You may have good stats but you may not be a team player, especially if you're average points per game and percentages/free throws, etc are higher than assists or even rebounds. It's obvious that non-white players make more money than whites, so there is discrimination, and although Jeremy Lin is new to the league and is now hurt, he deserves to have a decent salary for what he brought to the team when he started. He certainly made them much more cohesive as a team than Anthony or Stoudemire did.
As for Love, he may not get what he deserves, but you can tell there is discrimination. He may receive a $78 million/5 year contract by the Timberwolves, and in comparison to other players like Rondo, Rose, and Durant who have all spent about as much time in the nba as Love, give or take a season, they average a lot more than Love per year. Derrick Rose has been in the league the same amount of time as Love, yet he now has a contract for $98 million/5 year contract, and Durant's is $89 million. I think Love is certainly a great player, but it's obvious he isn't getting what he deserves, because he's just as much of a factor in games for his team as Durant. Since they average more per year than Love, discrimination or just plain ignorance is at play in the nba.

 
April 4, 2012  09:25 AM ET

I think it is pretty obvious how much the NBA discriminates against players in various ways. Whether it be through refereeing or salary, there's often discrimination of non-whites and African Americans. The league is nearly 80 percent African American, and if you look at the labeled "super stars" like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, and Amare Stoudemire, etc, this just reinforces how one-sided the league as a whole has become. Dirk Nowitzki or even Steve Nash are considered super stars, yet they most likely don't get as many jersey sales as LeBron or Wade.
As for Jeremy Lin, it is true that he has to work much harder to prove himself. He may not be a super star, but he's brought something to the table for his team that other players have not been able to. He certainly took the team on his shoulders and helped much more than Anthony did as the point guard. Because he isn't afraid to drive the ball to the basket, opposing players foul him hard, and maybe 60 percent of the time he gets a foul call (how many times has he had a bloody nose since he started?). This may be because he's new to the league and needs to know how fouls won't always be called, but it could also be because he's an Asian player, and the league's referees want to keep the "Linsanity" under control and keep him in check. He isn't at the level of LeBron or Kobe, and hasn't spent the time in the nba proving himself, so it seems that referees take this into account and try to make it harder on him. Certain refs or nba officials may think that Lin won't be as good as other "super stars", who are mostly African American, so they want to divert attention away from Lin and focus on African American players since, after all, they make up over 3/4 of the league, and so they need to appeal to the fan base whose composition is about the same.
In this sense, stats can only go so far. You may have good stats but you may not be a team player, especially if you're average points per game and percentages/free throws, etc are higher than assists or even rebounds. It's obvious that non-white players make more money than whites, so there is discrimination, and although Jeremy Lin is new to the league and is now hurt, he deserves to have a decent salary for what he brought to the team when he started. He certainly made them much more cohesive as a team than Anthony or Stoudemire did.
As for Love, he may not get what he deserves, but you can tell there is discrimination. He may receive a $78 million/5 year contract by the Timberwolves, and in comparison to other players like Rondo, Rose, and Durant who have all spent about as much time in the nba as Love, give or take a season, they average a lot more than Love per year. Derrick Rose has been in the league the same amount of time as Love, yet he now has a contract for $98 million/5 year contract, and Durant's is $89 million. I think Love is certainly a great player, but it's obvious he isn't getting what he deserves, because he's just as much of a factor in games for his team as Durant. Since they average more per year than Love, discrimination or just plain ignorance is at play in the nba.

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