October 5, 2005

Steve Sailer: Anti-Whiteist?

"Sailing Off Course, Part I" is a long attack by J.B. Cash of CasteFootball.us on my writings on sports and race. Usually, I get denounced from the left for pointing out that blacks on average are better at basketball and many positions in football, but Cash criticizes me from the right for being unfair to white athletes, who, he says, are discriminated against by coaches and sportswriters.

Cash is way over the top, and has lots of not-nice things to say about me, but I've been slowly coming around to think that he is onto something, although not to the extent he believes. When you look at NFL positions like tailback and cornerback that are now 99% black (or Samoan), it sure seems suspicious. (By the way, Tom Wolfe's white college basketball players in I Am Charlotte Simmons felt the same way as Cash does: that their coach only saw whites as benchwarmers or rebounders.)

For example, Arkansas QB Matt Jones, 6'-6" 229 lbs and also a starter on the basketball team, was probably the most gifted athlete in last year's draft, but nobody wants a white running quarterback. So, he volunteered to switch to wide receiver, where his blazing 4.37 speed would be most valuable, but most of the scouts wanted him instead to bulk up to play the stereotypical white position of tight end. He finally put his foot down and refused to add muscle that would just slow him down and make him a less special athlete. So, finally, the NFL came around to the idea of letting him play the black position of wide receiver.

My off-the-top of my head guess is that NFL positions that are almost 0% white would be, say, 20% white if talent was the only consideration. Maybe half that shortfall would be due to discrimination and underestimation by coaches. (Cash makes the shrewd point that coaches can better afford to err on the side of starting a black over a white when he's unsure who is better -- nobody will call him a racist in the newspaper, the white player is more likely to take his benchwarmer role with good grace than the black player, etc.) And the other half of the shortfall would be attributable to whites getting discouraged and not making the effort to make it at those positions.

But nobody in the media is interested in writing about this issue at all. They are scared to even mention what we all observe with our lying eyes -- that some positions are almost all black -- because that would suggest there might be, like, you know, differences between the races on average. And who wants to end up the next Bill Bennett?

Cash's theory of discrimination against whites has a testable implication straight from Nobel Laureate economist Gary Becker's 1957 book A Theory of Discrimination: NFL teams with more whites should outperform teams of the same salary budget.

Back in my 1996 National Review article on Jackie Robinson, How Jackie Robinson Desegregated America, I showed that the teams that integrated earliest and most enthusiastically (such as the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Boston/Milwaukee Braves, and Cleveland Indians) benefited in the won-loss column, while Ted Williams' Boston Red Sox and Stan Musial's St. Louis Cardinals, the participants in the 1946 World Series, declined in quality after Robinson entered the league in 1947 because they refused to add blacks until the late 1950s. As Becker demonstrated, under the doctoral dissertation guidance of Milton Friedman, irrational discrimination is costly to competitive firms like sports teams.

Similarly, my 2003 article "Baseball's Hidden Ethnic Bias," showed that baseball's establishment had long been irrationally discriminating against American-born hitters, white and black, because until recently they had overvalued the high batting averages (but low on-base percentages) of free-swinging Latin-born players.

So, if some NFL teams are discriminating more against whites than others, it should show up in the won-loss column (adjusted for salary of course). Three-time Super Bowl champions New England has a whiter-than average team, so that's one data point in Cash's favor, but I don't know what a full study would find. Anybody want to try it?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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