From the New York Times:
Even When White Men Can Jump …
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz FEB. 17, 2017
… For years, [NBA] owners were accused of padding their benches with white players to increase a team’s fan base. The implicit assumption: If you are white, you will have more fans.
… But we now have probably the best data set ever accumulated on the fandom of N.B.A. players: Facebook likes.
I downloaded information on the likes of 215 N.B.A. players who have fan pages on Facebook.
… While Facebook does not ask users to denote their race, it uses a variety of information to identify someone’s ethnic affinity, which can be useful for targeting ads. My research suggests that this ethnic affinity measure correlates strongly with race.
Barea is a white Puerto Rican who has played important roles in the successes of the Puerto Rican national team in international play. (Puerto Rico, by the way, is officially a separate nation for the purposes of the Olympics and other sports).
Cody Zeller is pretty much the 1983 movie Hoosiers come to life. He was the state of Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in high school and played for the Indiana Hoosiers in college.
Raymond Felton is a journeyman point guard. I don’t know why he is so much more popular with blacks than with everybody else. It’s perhaps less that he’s super popular with blacks as he’s less popular with everybody else. He’s been arrested for carrying an illegal gun and he’s been benched for being overweight.
Jeremy Lin is of course Mr. Linsanity, a Taiwanese-American Harvard grad who had a famous seven-game hot hand streak in 2012.
Overall, I estimate that the average white player in the N.B.A. has a fan base that is 56.7 percent white and 22.7 percent black. The average black player has a fan base that is 46.7 percent white and 32 percent black, a significant difference.
… Do white fans give an edge to white players or black fans give an edge to black players?
… we find that there is a clear edge to being of a certain race. But it goes against what many white owners and journalists have long thought.
If a white and a black player are similar on paper, it is the black player who will have more fans.
Among black Americans, black players are roughly twice as popular as comparable white players. But black players get a slight boost from fans of every racial group. Compared with white players who are similar to them in all ways I could think to measure, black players have more fans among white Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian-Americans.
If you like diversity with a small d, you might prefer to follow baseball, which is pretty representative of the national population, as we saw with the Chicago Cubs in the World Series last fall. But if you like Diversity with a capital D (i.e., black supremacy — e.g., you are outraged that Beyonce has won merely 22 Grammys), then you follow basketball.
Honestly, I was blown away by the overall size of this advantage. Roughly speaking, I estimate that a white player would have to score 10 more points per game to have as big a fan base on Facebook as he would have if he were black.
That’s a lot of anti-white bias.
But the actuality might be even more bigoted.
Unfortunately, since Facebook doesn’t have an Unlike button, there’s no obvious way to measure white bigotry against white basketball players, which has been a noticeable phenomenon at least since all the hate against Duke U. in the early 1990s for winning with a diverse roster rather than an all-black one.
So, this analysis understates how bad the anti-white bias is because it doesn’t measure white fans who exhibit racial animus against white ballplayers. (I’m not aware of any examples of a black fan who roots against black players the way it’s common for white fans to root against white players.)
Asian-Americans also have a huge advantage in building a fan base, although this is driven almost entirely by Mr. Lin, who is the 27th most popular player despite being the 80th most prolific scorer.
… If African-Americans were discriminated against in building a basketball fan base as well, it would show that white privilege can even show itself in one of the arenas in American life in which blacks have had tremendous success.
But African-Americans getting a boost in support? What should we make of that?
Welcome to the last half century?
I realize that we are constantly lectured about how oppressed blacks are by white hatred, etc etc. But this obsession is increasingly antiquarian. For example, the New York Times has run ten articles since January 26, 2017 mentioning Emmett Till, who was murdered 62 years ago.
One interesting follow-up analysis that could be done with this database is whether white American fans like white European and white South American players much. My impression is that white American possess virtually no feelings of racial affinity toward non-English speaking white players.
For example, in 2011 German-born Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks put on a spectacular performance through four rounds of playoffs to beat LeBron James’ Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. But I’m not familiar with any evidence of white Americans rooting for the white German out of racial affinity, despite the heroism of the underdog Nowitzki punching up, as it were, against the overdog LeBron.