People are Starting to Pay Attention to Ref Bias Against Jeremy Lin and so should the NBA

Jeremy Lin has faced discrimination in basketball since childhood. In the NBA, it’s not just because of Lin’s race that causes him to be a target. It’s also because he’s undrafted from Harvard and is Asian American. Some unperceptive people wonder why Yao Ming, who’s also Asian, didn’t face similar issues Lin has been dealing with. But Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming are nothing alike. Unlike Yao Ming, who was a number one draft from China and stands at a giant 7’6″, Lin is a normal-sized, undrafted dude so Lin simply just doesn’t “look the part” of an NBA player. In fact, this is the reason why Lin STILL has trouble passing through security at NBA arenas throughout the country even to this day!

To me, it’s not surprising at all that referees are biased against Jeremy Lin. It’s just human nature. The fact of the matter is, people make judgments about others all the time, whether it be conscious or unconscious. So I think people who debate whether or not referee bias exists against Lin are either being willfully ignorant or they’re just naive. Again, with Lin, it’s not just his race, it’s every aspect of who he is. The simple fact is that he just doesn’t have the pedigree of an NBA player, so that’s why Lin gets discriminated against in the NBA. Of course, other players face bias by refs, as well, such as non-elite rookies/young players and no-name players. I mentioned this in an article I wrote about ref bias against Lin over three years ago. Since Lin is such an aggressive player, he ends up with more bad calls/non-calls than any other player by a gigantic margin. If Lin actually got all the calls he deserved, he’d be going to the free throw line a ridiculous number of times! So I think it’s totally fair for Lin fans to single out ref bias against Jeremy Lin because it happens at such a high rate compared to any other player in the league since Lin has such an aggressive, attacking game, as well.

When I wrote that article three years ago, the situation for ref bias against Lin was even more disturbing and blatant. I actually think it’s gotten much better over the years. Back during Lin’s first season with the Rockets, there was a good long stretch in the first part of that season where I swear refs were playing chicken with their whistle whenever Lin got hit. I have no doubt they were placing fun bets with one another about who could get away with not blowing their whistle when Lin got hit. Lin would also get called a ton for fouls he didn’t commit. There was an article back then about how refs did place bets with each other in general, so I have no doubt that they placed bets when it came to Lin, because the ref bias against Lin was so disturbing and blatant back then. I even vowed to find ways to document all instances of ref bias against Lin, but the occurrences were too numerous that it became too time-consuming.

Three years later, someone (or a group of people) found a way to draw attention to ref bias against Lin. I’m not sure if I know all the individuals involved so I may be giving the wrong people credit or not enough people credit. But as far as I know, @psalm234 (a mutual follower of mine of Twitter) from is the key or sole individual responsible for making this video documenting referee bias against Lin:

This is a video I’ve been hoping and waiting for someone to do for at least three plus years. I’ve been wanting to do it myself, but I felt the task was too daunting and I also don’t have access to video footage.

I’ve been doing my best to spread the word on this video/letter tweeting/retweeting every tweet I see on it to @NBAOfficial @OfficialNBARefs and @NBA. Other Lin fans, it seems, have also been doing their part to spread the word. The video now has more than 800K hits in only 7 days! It’s also all over Reddit and, just today, there was an article written up about it in Huffington Post. In fact,  I first saw that Huffington Post article because a friend of mine, who doesn’t follow Lin at all, emailed it to me. So word is spreading. Along with this video, a letter has also been written to the NBA on the matter. I believe the primary or sole author of this letter is @chankpc (a mutual follower of mine of Twitter). I’m sure I left out other people involved, but just wanted to thank everyone who had a part in creating this video and letter. You did what I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but didn’t have the capabilities, vision, etc. Excellent job, you all! Major Kudos! And thank you for all the time you all spent on it. I know a lot of time, energy, and thought went into creating something that has had such incredible impact. Because of you, at least people are starting to pay attention to ref bias against Lin and I hope that this gets the league to address the issue internally.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since publishing this article, I got more clarification from @nhawj44, a mutual follower of mine on Twitter, about who was all involved in the letter/video so just wanted to take the chance to mention them and the role they played. According to @nhawj44, @hc_jadc or @jad7534 (same person) was responsible for the video and the letter was co-written and edited by @Jen2Jenny and @chankpc. I made a comment regarding this below, but thought I’d also include it in the article. A New York Times article reveals the names of these dedicated individuals:  Hsiu-Chen Kuei (@hc_jadc), Jenny Wei (@Jen2Jenny), and Koon-Ping Chan (@chankpc).

The NBA has pretty much been unresponsive to the video/letter, replying back with basically generic responses. That’s to be expected, since they don’t want to deal with claims of racial bias, etc. So I’m not at all surprised by the NBA’s lack of response publicly. What I am hoping and what I do think is happening is that internally they are at least discussing the issue. I don’t think it’s something that they’ll ignore. Now, I’m not saying that things will change for Lin going forward for sure, but there’s a chance that things will. I mean, the ref bias against Lin has already gotten better than it had during Lin’s first season with the Rockets. So I have noticed it improving somewhat already. But I’m hoping that all this attention will accelerate it.

In last night’s game against the Celtics, there may have been some indication of refs finally starting to be a little more fair towards Lin. I didn’t watch that game, but I did see these extended highlights from the game:

Lin actually got calls that he deserved, calls that I haven’t seen him get in the past:

  • @1:07 of video, normally Lin would get called for a foul in this instance. Of course, this is NOT a foul, but that’s what I mean. Normally Lin would get called for fouling even if he didn’t commit a foul, but in last night’s game, Lin, rightfully so, didn’t get called for a foul here on his good defense against Turner.
  • @1:24 of video, normally Lin would get called for a reach-in foul that he didn’t commit. Last night, refs made the right call and Lin was allowed to steal the ball without being called for a foul that he didn’t commit.
  • @1:35 of video, normally Lin wouldn’t have been given the benefit of the doubt and been called for an offensive foul. Last night, the refs ruled in Lin’s favor.
  • @2:20 of video, I have seen instances where Lin would be called for offensive foul in this same scenario, but last night the refs made the right call in favor of Lin and called a blocking foul on Olynyk
  • @2:50 of video, in the past, there’s no way refs would have called a foul on Lin’s opponent. Would have been just a no call, since there was barely any contact.
  • @3:50 of video, in the past, this would have been a no-call, so Lin would have just had a missed shot. I know it’s hard to believe, but this type of contact happens to Lin on a nightly basis and the refs would not blow the whistle. But last night, they did and Lin got to shoot free throws instead of having a missed field goal.
  • @4:46 of video, in the past refs would not have called a foul on Lin’s defender for that type of contact. If they did, Lin would be going to the line or putting his man in foul trouble on a regular basis (last night, Lin’s defender Avery Bradley, did get into foul trouble).
  • @7:08 of video, just another instance of a bad call against Jeremy Lin. No way should this have been an offensive foul in any definition of the word in real-time or on the replay. Even Celtics commentators couldn’t believe the call! But such is Lin’s existence in the NBA. He can’t go through a game without getting bad calls. I guess this bad call happened later in the game (toward end of 3rd quarter) so refs went back to their old ways when it comes to Lin.
  • @8:10 of video, Turner tripped Lin on purpose, and he should have been called for a technical foul at least, but he wasn’t. Again, just another day at the office for Jeremy Lin. NBA players are free to physically abuse Lin without consequence. This is toward the end of the game, so refs, again, may have gone back to their old ways or maybe they just missed the intentional tripping by Turner. Maybe I’ll be nice and give the refs the benefit of the doubt on that one, since they had been so fair to Lin for most of the game.

So based on what I witnessed in last night’s game, the NBA may be paying attention to ref bias against Jeremy Lin even though they act like they don’t publicly. The critical thing is how long this will last. Unfortunately, this attention is happening as there’s only one game left in the regular season. My concern is that by next season, all of this will have been forgotten and things will to back to the usual ref bias against Lin in the future.

So what I would encourage all Lin fans to do is not let up on ref bias against Lin. Whenever you see it happening during the game, Live tweet it along with the point in time in the game it happened to @NBAOfficial @OfficialNBARefs and @NBA. Here’s an example of a tweet I would send: “4:10 4th #CHAatBOS 4/11/16 Turner intentional tripping on Lin but no tech or flagrant called @NBAOfficial @OfficialNBARefs @NBA”

Also, for those doing highlight videos on Jeremy Lin’s game, I would encourage you to include not just Lin’s scoring highlights, but all instances of bad calls against Lin. That way, other Lin fans can look at these highlight videos and tweet these instances to @NBAOfficial @OfficialNBARefs and @NBA from watching the highlights. You can also email the NBA here. I think its important to keep reminding the league about ref bias against Lin on a regular basis so this momentum doesn’t die out. I think if Lin fans continue to do this, that will really create sustainable change for Jeremy Lin and he will finally get fair treatment by the refs. This will help Lin’s game, because Lin’s stats have suffered tremendously due to ref bias, not just for the bad calls/non-calls but when Lin gets hammered and doesn’t get the call, he’ll be more reluctant to continue to drive and get hit without getting calls.

Once again, I want to thank all those involved for bringing much-needed attention to ref bias against Jeremy Lin. I hope this is the start of a sustainable movement that will finally get the NBA to treat Jeremy Lin fairly.



EDITOR’S NOTE: What follows is continuing development of this story after the publication of this article.

In one week, the video has been written up in the New York Times and then discussed on ESPN’s First Take:

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  • Ace Pagoda

    The first question I would have is “where the f**k is the organization, from owners, to GM especially to coach and teammate? Does their lack of action on behalf of their teammate mean they share the bias? Does their lack of action mean they agree with the status quo refereeing? Are they afraid? This would apply also to Houston and LA though those were toxic situations and I think they are part of the problem. But Charlotte? Friendly teal Charlotte? Coach of the year nominee Clifford? The face of the NBA Michael Jordan? As far as I know not one player, coach or administrator has stepped up for JLin and they get to see it night in and night out. Not one. Not even now! Why are we not questioning Charlotte? When Jason Terry committed that obvious flagrant foul why didn’t someone from Charlotte lay him out either then or on their next possession? I wonder if JLin wonders about his own teammates as well as the NBA in general. I am getting mad here just thinking about it.

    • Well, as far as I know, coaches, players and probably owners GMs, etc. get fined if they complain about officiating publicly. But not sure about that. I think NBA organizations are reluctant to call out officiating for fear of retaliation from refs. So I think this is an instance in which the fans are more empowered than the owners/GMs/coaches, etc. to do the complaining on behalf of a player. That being said, there has been a general lack of caring by owners/GMs/coaches, etc. regarding ref bias against Lin. I’m sure there are things they could do without making too much noise and getting fined, etc., but they haven’t. So I hear you!

      • I am glad those video clip show the players’ true colors, especially Kobe and Melo.

  • MrPingPong

    Yeah, kudos to the Lin fan who made the video, and to all the Lin fans that spread the words around. Let’s hope the NBA will pay attention to this.

    On a separate note, I think you meant to say “Even Celtics commentators could NOT believe the call.” And there is a typo in “My concern is that by ext season…”: should be “next” and not “ext.”

    Great write up as usual, Philosopher! 🙂

    • Thanks MrPingPong!

      Just testing to see if you’re actually reading the articles 😉

      Kidding aside, I appreciate you helping me with the edits. I don’t edit these articles when I first publish it. I just stream-of-consciousnessly write them and then quickly go back and edit.

      When I went back, I did catch the “ext season”, among a bunch of other typos. But the “could NOT”…it was already abbreviated “couldn’t” originally. That was the way it was originally pre-editing, so I think you may have just read it incorrectly.

    • Ace Pagoda

      Let’s not just hope the NBA will pay attention to this. Let’s insist that public muggings on display in front of impressionable young people stop. Let’s insist the NBA either address this issue with a plan to stop it or say why they are OK with it. Again I ask, where is the Charlotte ownership, front office, coach and his teammates? Mark Cuban certainly does not have reservations about standing up for his team. It is, or was common NBA tradition to have a team “enforcer”. Besides basketball one of this person’s primary functions was not to let his teammates be unduly harmed lest they pay a price in kind. People may consider this thuggery, but hey, it worked. Maybe this sounds like condoning violence but violence unanswered is being perpetrated right now on JLin.

  • According to @nhawj44, a mutual follower of mine on Twitter, @hc_jadc or @jad7534 (same person) did the video and the letter is done by @Jen2Jenny along with @chankpc who proofread it.

    So I did leave out the individuals responsible in my article, unfortunately.

  • So many of them are jealous of Lin’s once a lifetime sensation of Linsanity. Even Kobe’s 5 Championship is not comparable, not to say Lin’s a model professional on and off the court and well liked by so many fans all around the world.

  • I hate to do it, but I want the Hornets to lose so they stay at #6 and avoid facing LeBron if they make it to the 2nd round. I also want the Heat to win so Hornets don’t have to face the Hawks. Hawks scare me more than Heat. But that’s a secondary concern. Main concern is avoiding LeBron if by chance Hornets advance. But you know the thing I want the most? Houston to lose AND Jazz to win! Also, I’m rooting for Warriors to get their 73rd win so I can witness history being made.

  • It’s nice to see that the story on ref bias against Jeremy Lin continues to gain traction. Today, an excellent article on Hoops Habit was published about it:

    Also, a pretty well-known basketball analyst (with over 120K followers) @AlexKennedyNBA retweeted the video.

    Video also now has almost 1 million views.

    One of my first retweets regarding the video/letter etc. was that I hope it gets millions of retweets. Back then, there were like 100 views of the video. So my wish is coming true!

  • The story on ref bias on Lin is really gaining traction. Now a pretty well known analyst on ESPN @tomhaberstroh (Tom Haberstroh) just put out a video that provides data, which indicates ref bias against Lin is very real. Video shows that Lin has drawn 813 fouls (in three seasons), but none of them are flagrant, which unheard of for someone who draws that many fouls. It’s the most fouls drawn for any guard in that span without drawing a flagrant. It’s the third most for any position. Only Kevin Durant (981) and Pau Gasol (816) have drawn more fouls without a flagrant. But, combined, Durant and Gasol have 300 fewer drives than Jeremy Lin. Kevin Durant has 939 drives, Gasol has 286, while Lin has 1,528 drives. Remember in my article I sad that other players experience ref bias, as well, but…”I think it’s totally fair for Lin fans to single out ref bias against Jeremy Lin because it happens at such a high rate compared to any other player in the league since Lin has such an aggressive, attacking game, as well.”

    Well, the data in this video backs up that notion that Lin has a disproportionate number of bad calls on him versus any player in the league and it’s not even close! This data may only be looking specifically at flagrant fouls, but it’s safe to extrapolate and say that this is an indication of ref bias in general against Lin. So that’s why I say Lin gets a disproportionate number of bad calls in general, not just regarding flagrant fouls.

    Here’s the video:

  • I didn’t watch the Hornets game, because I was hoping they’d lose so they could stay in 6th place and avoid LeBron James if they advance to the second round. I was also hoping that the Heat would win so they would stay in 3rd place so Hornets could face Heat, instead of Hawks. What happened turned out to be even better than I wanted! So unexpected. I thought Hornets would win and shoot themselves in the foot, because that would mean they would move up to 5th place and face LeBron in the second round.

    Hornets did end up winning, but Boston also unexpectedly won. I thought Boston would throw their game to avoid LeBron, but they didn’t. Hawks also lost, which was unexpected, because I thought for sure they would win against the Wizards, since they’re fighting for 3rd place and the Wizards aren’t playing for anything and resting their players. CRAZY! So the result is that four teams have the EXACT SAME RECORD, but because of tie breakers, everyone stayed in the same place. Hornets 6th and MIami 3rd just like I wanted. PERFECT, yet so unexpected.

    • MrPingPong

      Just like I wanted also! But it’s not so surprising in retrospect. Take a look at this table:

      There are eight possible outcomes to the games played by the Hornets, the Heats and the Celts tonight. Assuming it’s a 50/50 chance for each team to win its game, then the Heat has a 6/8 chance to seed third, the Hawks have a 6/8 chance to seed 4th, the Celts have a 4/8 chance to seed 5 and the Hornets have a 5/8 chance to seed 6.

      Anyway, Cliff let the 3rd stringers play the whole 4th quarter. All the key players got some well-deserved rest. Lin performed well in 21 min and did not get hurt, which is most important. Phew!

      Now come playoffs time! Letzzz Gooo, JL7! 🙂

      • Yeah, mathematically not surprising at all. But what’s surprising is that the teams that had incentive to win didn’t win and those that had incentive to lose ended up winning. That’s what’s crazy!