Napoleon Complex: Height Bias Among NBA Referees
15(5) Journal of Sports Economics 541-558 (2014)
Posted: 11 Oct 2014
Date Written: May 9, 2014
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: Suggested Citation