Burdekin et al. / NBA FANS INDIFFERENT TO RACE?
with a high percentage of White players. Relative to Black players, White players are significantly less likely to be traded from a team located in a city with a relatively large White population and are less likely to be traded from a team that has a large percentage of White players. Taken together, these findings seem consistent with the implications drawn from Table 4 on the sorting of players by race—that is, toward the end of the decade, teams in whiter areas seem to place greater emphasis on retaining any White players they had.
There is still a question as to whether the teams or the players determine how this sorting actually occurs. Researchers typically assume that the teams’ preferences are dominant. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that player preferences may affect location. In an extreme expression of such player preferences, Isaiah Rider, a Black Trailblazer team member, called the relatively White city of Portland a “racist area” (Wertheim, 2001, p. 44). Despite its shock value, this quote offers support for the premise that team preferences are what ultimately matter most. Rider remained with the Portland Trailblazers for three seasons and, after becoming a free agent, eventually signed with the Denver Nuggets in October 2001—another team located in a smaller NBA city not noted for having a large Black population. The implica- tion is that players may have preferences for particular teams, but in a competitive market for players, they do not have sufficient market power to select teams and teammates that match their individual preferences.17 We leave open, however, the possibility that some players, most likely top-performing starters, have sufficient market power to select among NBA teams.18
Evidence from the 1990s is mixed on whether basketball fans are becoming indifferent to the race of NBA players. Clearly, the NBA and its franchised teams have prospered in the 1990s, as both revenue from televised games and arena atten- dance have increased steadily. These increases have occurred at the same time that Black player participation has increased and White player participation has decreased. Furthermore, our results on player performance suggest that NBA teams tend to use the most talented players regardless of race. It may be premature, however, to conclude that fans do not care about race. The tendency of teams in whiter areas to have more White players certainly has not disappeared since the 1980s. We continue to see a nonrandom sorting of players among teams from our 1990-1999 sample period. Moreover, after correcting for other factors, we find that a matching of the team’s racial composition and the racial composition of the mar- ket area positively boosts home game–attendance revenue. One interesting charac- teristic of this sorting is that more skilled White players appear to end up with teams located in markets with relatively larger White populations. In general, White play- ers are also less likely to be traded away from teams that have either a larger White concentration in their market area or a larger concentration of White players on the