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Bu.r1d1ekin1et al0. / NBA FANS INDIFFERENTSTO RTCE? ONOMICS / May 2005

ARTICLE

Are NBA Fans Becoming Indifferent to Race?

Evidence From the 1990s

RICHARD C. K. BURDEKIN Claremont McKenna College

RICHARD T. HOSSFELD Duke University School of Law

JANET KIHOLM SMITH Claremont McKenna College

Previous work found the racial composition of NBA teams to be positively correlated with the racial composition of their metropolitan markets in the 1980s. We find continued evi- dence of this relationship during the 1990s, with accompanying revenue gains from the inclusion of White players on teams located in whiter areas. And, as the number of White players declined significantly throughout the decade, the revenue product of a White player actually increased on the margin. The tendency for top-performing White players in the NBA to locate in cities with larger White populations also is consistent with their higher marginal value in such locations.

Keywords:

customer discrimination; race; sports; National Basketball Association

A pplied to professional sports, Becker’s (1971) concept of racial discrimination by customers is embodied by fan preference for watching players of their own race. The customer-discrimination hypothesis implies that teams lose revenue and prof- its when they adopt color-neutral hiring practices. Accordingly, unlike discrimina- tion by employers and by fellow workers, discrimination by customers is unlikely to disappear even in the long run (Nardinelli & Simon, 1990). Although discrimina- tion by customers generally cannot be disentangled from other influences on hiring

AUTHORS’NOTE: The authors thank Heather Antecol, David Berri, Bill Brown, Eric Helland, Harold Mulherin, Mark Partridge, Jennifer Ward-Batts, Marc Weidenmie , Richard Smith, Tom Willett, and two anonymous referees for helpful discussion and comments. JEL codes: J15, J71.

JOURNAL OF SPORTS ECONOMICS, Vol. 6 No. 2, May 2005 DOI: 10.1177/1527002503262641 © 2005 Sage Publications

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