‘NYT’ Hit By NBA Chief on ‘Bias’ Story, Admits Expert Not ‘Independent’

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By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press

NBA commissioner David Stern criticized a study regarding racial bias among league officials — and the New York Times for covering it on its front page this week, saying racism ?doesn?t exist in the NBA.?

The Times then ran an editors’ note in its Saturday paper, disclosing that one of the “independent” experts it hired to judge the judge had ties to one of the creators of the study.

The paper said it had learned that one of the three experts, Larry Katz of Harvard University, was the chairman of the doctoral thesis committee for one of the study’s authors, and “should not have been cited as an independent expert.”

Speaking before Friday?s Game 6 of a playoff series between Toronto and New Jersey, Stern said of the report: ?My major concern about it is that it?s wrong.?

?This is a bum rap, that?s all,? Stern said. ?This is a bum rap, and if it is going to be laid on us it should be laid on us by basis of some people who are purported to be scholars in a publication that purports to hold us up to a higher standard ? a little bit more should have been done.?

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania?s Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found that white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

The study, conducted over a 13-year span through 2004, was based on information from publicly available box scores, which show only the referees? names and contain no information about which official made a call.

The NBA did its own study, which it sent to Wolfers on Friday afternoon, over a more recent 2 1/2-year span that included which referee made each call.

Stern seemed more annoyed with the Times, saying it ?behaved very badly, very badly? and criticizing the timing of its story and saying the experts it interviewed had conflicts of interest.

?When we have gone to the expense of saying you raised a fair subject, let us analyze it ourselves and may we share the data with you and obviously they had a deadline because the information was so fresh it ended in 2003,? Stern said. ?They had to rush into publication. Why? Because they wanted to get good play on the front page of the New York Times. We?re not buying it.

?Am I sensitive to the subject? Yeah. But the New York Times should be held to the standards to which it (pronounces) itself.?

The Times’ editors’ note today reads as follows.
*

A front-page article on Wednesday about an academic study that detected a racial bias in the foul calls of referees in the National Basketball Association noted that The New York Times had asked three independent experts to review the study and materials from a subsequent N.B.A. study that detected no bias.

The experts, whose names the authors of the two studies did not learn until after the article was published, all agreed that the study that detected bias was far more sound. That study was conducted by Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics.

After the article was published, The Times learned that one of the three experts, Larry Katz of Harvard University, was the chairman of Mr. Wolfers?s doctoral thesis committee, as Mr. Wolfers had acknowledged in previous studies. Because of this, Mr. Katz should not have been cited as an independent expert.

An updated version of the Wolfers-Price study added acknowledgments for Mr. Katz and a second expert The Times had contacted, David Berri of California State University-Bakersfield. They were thanked for brief ?helpful comments? about the paper they made to Mr. Wolfers via e-mail messages after reviewing it for The Times. These later comments would have been mentioned in the article if editors had known about them.

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