- Don Garber
- Peter Walton
MLS & PRO: Study, address & report on implicit racial bias in refereeing
We are passionate Major League Soccer fans who care about this league and the growth of soccer in the United States. We recently read, with great interest, a study of fouls and ejections during the 2016 season that suggests that black players were 14% more likely to be called for fouls and twice as likely to be ejected as were non-black players. While there is absolutely no suggestion of explicit racism in the study, this is a troubling sign that implicit racial bias may be effecting how MLS games are refereed.
Everyone, including those of us sponsoring this petition, possesses implicit biases. Many of these biases are entirely sub-conscious and can come into play even when a person believes he or she is making completely objective decisions. However, when placed in a position of authority, individuals and organizations have a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to identify and mitigate biases as much as possible.
MLS has been a leader among sports leagues in building an inclusive culture, including but not limited to your work in support of LGBT fans and players. We hope and expect that MLS and PRO will take all reasonable steps to study and address the issue, including:
1) Conduct your own study of fouls and ejections over a multi-year period and publish your findings as to whether there is a statistically significant difference in treatment of different groups of players.
2) If there is evidence of implicit racial bias in refereeing, take meaningful steps to address it through referee trainings & public outreach. There is evidence that racial bias can be reduced over time through training.
3) Commit to publishing analysis on an ongoing basis showing whether trainings and outreach are having the desired effect of reducing and eventually eliminating implicit racial bias in refereeing.
It is very possible that you are already doing this work in private, and, if so, all we ask is that you demonstrate to your fans that you are taking concrete steps to identify and address the issue. Again, we believe Major League Soccer has been a leader across a host of other important issues and we fully expect that you will set an example for other leagues and institutions by addressing this with candor, transparency, and the spirit of continuous self-improvement.
- Don Garber
- Peter Walton
MLS: Address implicit racial bias in refereeing
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