Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Devon Gorry
Dr. F. Andrew Hanssen
Dr. Raymond Sauer
Throughout NBA history, there has been discrimination that has been faced by black players. This is not limited to the compensation that black players receive compared to white players. Literature in this are showed a significant amount of discrimination occurring between white and black NBA players when holding player performance constant when looking at the mid 1980s. This changed with later literature, as analyses of the early to mid 1990s found that this discrimination had subsided in NBA contracts.
This paper analyzes seasons from the early 1990s through to early 2020s to see whether this change in discriminatory practices holds true. The expected result based on racial progress that has been seen in the United States over time would be that this discrimination would continue to be eradicated form when it initially disappeared in the literature in the mid 1990s. However, this is not what is found in actuality. Instead, there is no significant evidence of racial discrimination in contracts in the mid 1990s, but significant discrimination reappears in the early 2010s and continues to grow with time through the 2021-22 NBA season. When looking for explanations of this phenomenon, attendance is not tied to the racial makeup of the team, and black players actually get drafted earlier based on NBA performance that white players do. As well as this, including popularity and excluding maximum contracts does not eliminate this racial disparity. The only reasoning found in the data in this paper is the influx of foreign players, but this does not come close to eliminating all discrimination, so the end result of heightened discrimination in the last decade is still puzzling.
Byrne, Andrew, "Racial Discrimination in NBA Contracts" (2023). All Theses. 4119.