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Mathletics by Wayne L. Winston

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ARE NBA OFFICIALS PREJUDICED?

The sports page of the May 2, 2007, edition of the New York Times contained the headline: “Study of NBA Sees Racial Bias in Calling Fouls.”1 The article was based on a study by Cornell professor Joseph Price and Wharton professor Justin Wolfers.2 Price and Wolfers (PW) claim that “more personal fouls are called against players when they are officiated by an opposite- race refereeing crew than when officiated by an own-race crew.” In this chapter we discuss their insightful analysis of the referee bias question.

What Are the Best Data to Use to Test for Referee Bias?

An NBA officiating crew consists of three officials. The ideal way to determine whether the racial composition of the officiating crew influences ...

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