Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Wolfers/Price referee study was pretty interesting all by itself, but the responses it provoked from frightened basketball cognoscenti* were absolutely priceless. From the NBA, you got:

"The study that is cited in the New York Times article is wrong," president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. "The fact is there is no evidence of racial bias in foul calls made by NBA officials and that is based on a study conducted by our experts who looked at data that was far more robust and current than the data relied upon by Professor Wolfers" [emphasis added]. ... The NBA denied a request by Wolfers and Price to obtain that information, citing its confidentiality agreement with the officials.
In other words, "Your study is wrong, but we can't tell you why. So shut up." (There was also a weird passage in which Litvin attempted to use an earlier draft of the study to discredit its findings. What the hell?)

And on SportsCenter later that evening, NBA "analyst" and noted statistician Kiki Vandeweghe sounded off on the study's methodology:
Well, I took statistics in college, and I can tell you, you can make statistics say whatever you want them to say. That's the first thing. Second thing is, you know, when you get right down to it, they looked at box scores, which list three referees across the bottom. They can't tell, the researchers can't tell who actually made those calls, so they have no idea, so I don't know how they were deciding, you know, if it was an African-American or a white official or Hispanic... who made the call.
Because I guess despite all that statistics experience, he never made it as far as "Introductory Regression."

* - Ahem.

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