Inside the NBA Bubble: How Black Players Performed Better without Fans

27 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2022 Last revised: 28 Oct 2022

See all articles by Mauro Caselli

Mauro Caselli

University of Trento - School of International Studies; University of Trento - Department of Economics and Management

Paolo Falco

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics; Stanford University

Babak Somekh

Baruch College, CUNY - Department of Economics and Finance

Date Written: September 1, 2022

Abstract

In the NBA, predominantly Black players play in front of predominantly non-Black fans. Using the 'NBA bubble', a natural experiment induced by COVID-19, we show that the performance of Black players improved significantly with the absence of fans vis-\`a-vis White players. This is consistent with Black athletes being negatively affected by racial pressure from mostly non-Black audiences. We control for player, team, and game fixed-effects, and dispel alternative mechanisms. Beyond hurting individual players, racial pressure causes significant economic damage to NBA teams by lowering the performance of top athletes and the quality of the game.

Keywords: discrimination, harassment, racism, performance, basketball, NBA, COVID-19

JEL Classification: D91, J15, J71, Z22

Suggested Citation

Caselli, Mauro and Falco, Paolo and Somekh, Babak, Inside the NBA Bubble: How Black Players Performed Better without Fans (September 1, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4247276 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4247276

Mauro Caselli (Contact Author)

University of Trento - School of International Studies ( email )

Via Tommaso Gar 14
Trento, Trento 38122
Italy

University of Trento - Department of Economics and Management ( email )

Via Inama 5
Trento, I-38100
Italy

Paolo Falco

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

København
Denmark
+4535334817 (Phone)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Babak Somekh

Baruch College, CUNY - Department of Economics and Finance ( email )

17 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010
United States

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