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Using Social Psychology to Evaluate Race and Law in Sports

11 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2009  

Michael McCann

University of New Hampshire School of Law; Sports Illustrated and; Mississippi College School of Law

Date Written: July 29, 2009


This chapter will examine the connection between social psychology and the larger topic of race, sports, and the law. It will begin by discussing human attitudes and cognitive biases and then turn to what could be the most clearly detectable, or at least the most controversial, connection between social psychology, race, and sports law: the alleged nexus between implicit attitudes and patterns of referees and umpires when officiating games. In particular, the chapter will discuss recent research on the supposed propensity of National Basketball Association ('NBA') referees to call fouls on African-American players with greater frequency than objective data would predict. The chapter will also consider new research on Major League Baseball ('MLB') umpires and a possible relationship between pitchers’ race and umpires’ called balls and strikes. It will then raise the possibility that the Wonderlic Personal Test ('Wonderlic' or 'Wonderlic Test') for the National Football League ('NFL') Draft and similar tests may corroborate findings on stereotype threat. The chapter will conclude by noting the importance of law and collective-bargaining in rectifying related concerns.

Keywords: social psychology, race sports law, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, National Football League, Wonderlic Personal Test

Suggested Citation

McCann, Michael, Using Social Psychology to Evaluate Race and Law in Sports (July 29, 2009). Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 10-04. Available at SSRN:

Michael A. McCann (Contact Author)

University of New Hampshire School of Law ( email )

Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property
2 White Street
Concord, NH 03301
603.513.5254 (Phone)


Sports Illustrated and

1271 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
United States


Mississippi College School of Law

151 East Griffith Street
Jackson, MS 39157


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