Consumer and Employer Discrimination in Professional Sports Markets: New Evidence from Major League Baseball

Wolfgang Maennig
Steffen Q. Mueller

This study investigates the relationship between consumer discrimination, racial matching strategies, and employer discrimination in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1985 to 2016. Specifically, we assess the extent to which both fan attendance and team performance respond to changes in teams’ and their local market areas’ racial compositions. To this end, we use game-level data (N = 69,239) that we aggregate to the team-season level (N = 866). Using facial recognition software and pictures on more than 7,000 players, each player is assigned to one of three race groups: White, Black, and other (Asian or Hispanic). We find both consumer and employer discrimination; discrimination varies across leagues, over time, by race and athlete groups, and regional racial composition. However, league-specific fan and employer racial preferences only partially align, indicating that employer discrimination is not primarily driven by fans’ racial preferences.

JEL: C5, J1, Z2