Napoleon Complex: Height Bias Among NBA Referees

15(5) Journal of Sports Economics 541-558 (2014)

Posted: 11 Oct 2014

See all articles by Paul Gift

Paul Gift

Pepperdine University, Graziadio School of Business and Management

Ryan M. Rodenberg

Florida State University - College of Education; Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: May 9, 2014

Abstract

Given the vast number of observations in a transparent environment, the interaction between players and referees in the National Basketball Association (NBA) provides a real-world laboratory that allows for observation and testing of implicit height-based biases (the so-called “Napoleon Complex”). Controlling for a plethora of referee-specific characteristics and including 4,463 regular season games from 2008 to 2012, we find that: (i) more personal fouls are called when a relatively shorter three-person officiating crew is working and (ii) no more or fewer fouls are called when games involve relatively taller players. Such biases are probably not large enough to impact game outcomes, but could affect gambling markets. Our findings support the conclusion that relatively shorter NBA referees officiate basketball games differently than their taller peers. The analysis spotlights an oft-suggested but rarely-studied bias in a workplace where employees are heavily scrutinized and monitored.

Keywords: Referee Bias, Basketball

JEL Classification: L83

Suggested Citation

Gift, Paul and Rodenberg, Ryan M., Napoleon Complex: Height Bias Among NBA Referees (May 9, 2014). 15(5) Journal of Sports Economics 541-558 (2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2435324

Paul Gift (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University, Graziadio School of Business and Management ( email )

6100 Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90045
United States

Ryan M. Rodenberg

Florida State University - College of Education ( email )

Tully Gym 1002
1114 W. Call Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306-4450
United States
850-645-9535 (Phone)
850-644-0974 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://education.fsu.edu/faculty-and-staff/dr-ryan-rodenberg

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States
850-645-9535 (Phone)
850-644-0974 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://education.fsu.edu/faculty-and-staff/dr-ryan-rodenberg

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