NBEconomics: Draft Whitey! Affirmative Action Failure in the NCAA and Ivy League.

The NBA is 80.9% “people of color” and 19.1% “white” , which, is almost the exact opposite of the United States demographics where 79.96% of the population is “white”. “In the NCAA In Division I men’s basketball, African-Americans accounted for 57.2 percent of the student-athletes and whites accounted for 29.4 percent.”

Sally Kohn seems to think overreprsentation is proof of unjust discrimination. What would happen if the NCAA forced schools to get more white players? Say NCAA recruiters gave high school “white” kids a bump in ratings because the rating system seems to benefit “black” players and the NCAA gave scholarships for being “white”. Let’s just say they succeeded, more “white” players received scholarships due to adjusted ratings and “white scholarships”.

What would happen on the court? Would “white” players get more playing time than before?

Would “white” players make the NBA?

If so, for how long?

If the previous rating system was accurate, raising player ratings based on anything other than ability means putting lower ability players in a league with accurately rated, high-level players. Maybe the higher-level players would take it easy on the inferior “white” players.

Remember the Behaviour Framing Grid and if a person is motivated (social norm+ individual incentive), able and has opportunity that person is likely to act.  If a player is better, the player is able to win. If the player is in the game, the opportunity is obvious. If the player wants to win, clearly the player is motivated. The score board does not care about the aesthetics, thus there is no incentive for the player to care either.

Maybe the player would be looked down on by breaking social norms, but would the negative social consequences of dunking on low rated players be greater than the individual incentive of winning and positive social consequences of winning? Would negative social consequences of beating “white” players be worse than the negative consequences of losing to someone everyone knows doesn’t deserve to be there?

It is a safe bet on average, “white” affirmative action players would get crushed in Division I. Putting “white” players on the court because they’re “white” and not necessarily good, is a receipe for disaster. No doubt, there would be some “white” players that preformed well, they would be a extrodinarily small percentage. At the NBA level, that minority of “white” affirmative action players would be even less likely to succeed. In fact, I would wager that the best players would have a greater advantage than before “white” benefits implementation  because their competition would be weaker. The better players would stand out more, making it less likely “white” affirmative action players would be drafted at all.

There is an easy answer for how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, the NBA’s was shattered in 1950, the NFL in 1946 before the civil rights acts of the 1960’s. The coach at a small school has ability, opportunity, and motivation to put black players on his Texas Western team. He has no reason not to, after all, he’s already suffering from the negative consequences of losing. The score board does not care about “race”. Politicains and do-gooders do.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-North Carolina vs Notre Dame
Mar 27, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams celebrates with his team defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the championship game in the East regional of the NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Center. North Carolina won 88-74. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Malcom Gladwell via Business Insider


If you read the title you know where this is going. I’ve read a lot from Malcolm Gladwell. He rarely dips his toe clearly in politics, but he could not help himself in the 4th chapter of David and Goliath.

Gladwell argues that the students may be much better off selecting a second-choice school instead of attending the Ivy League due to the level of competition and pressure to perform. Gladwell interviews Ivy League drop-outs who believe that they would have stayed in their field of study and graduated if they went to a less-competitive university.

They became “canon fonder” for the kids that went to private school their entire lives, just like the “white” affirmative action players would get crushed by players that grew up in AAU, intense basketball culture.

Gladwell makes the same argument against affirmative action, getting in doesn’t mean success. He contends that lowering admission standards for people because they are a minority puts them “in a school one higher tier than they would otherwise be able to attend.” Gladwell cites a study by Richard Sanders, which found “more than half of all African-American law students in the United States (51.6%) are in the bottom 10% of their class and almost three-quarters fall in the bottom 20%.”

Gladwell concluded, “We take promising students… who happen to be black and offer to bump them up a notch. And why do we do that? Because we think we’re helping them! Sure enough, by every conceivable measure (likelihood of graduating from law school, likelihood of passing the Bar Exam, likelihood of actually practicing law) black students who chose the big pond offered by affirmative action do markedly worse than those of equal academic credentials who attended their natural school.”

Affirmative Action is another program that means well, but ultimately gets in the way.



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