February 23rd, 2017 – Rockford Boylan 62 Rockford East 56

(5-6-17) Is there a racial bias by white basketball officials to black athletes?

In a Rockford (Illinois) Register-Star story today by Matt Trowbridge – Lack of Black Refs In Rockford Sparks Bias Concerns –   is based on the results of a recent game that  took place in an Illinois High School Association Sectional Girls Basketball Final game between Rockford Boylan and Rockford East.

White Officials
Is there a racial bias by white basketball officials to black athletes?



Boylan is a private school with a majority of white students, the Titans shot 37 free throws during the game, while East, one of four city schools in the RPS 205 District,  and a predominately black team attempted just 10 shots at the charity stripe. Boylan ended up with a 62-56 win. The crew that called game was three white officials.

Rockford East Girls Head Basketball Coach L.A. Malone told the Register-Star after the loss:

“The officiating was brutal. That’s not right. You don’t do kids like that.”

In the Sectional semifinal against Streamwood, with a majority of white players and an all white officiating crew,  East would blow a 16 point halftime lead, but would hang on to win 51-45.

Malone told the Register-Star after the game:

“It was great in the beginning, but it isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish. So I’m real upset about that.”

“And then those calls were ridiculous.”

In the most recent  Register-Star story, Malone said:

“The implicit bias is definitely there.  The imbalance of fouls was ridiculous. My team doesn’t do hacks. We don’t do cheap shots. We don’t do any of that. And for my girls to get called, it blows my mind.”

Trowbridge talked to two black officials who have done done games in the Rockford area.

Kywan Edmonson, a black official from the Rockford area told Trowbridge:

“Some of the kids think that quote-unquote white officials cheat them”

Craig Bunton, who was member of an all black officiating crew,  did a boys basketball game in which Rockford Boylan beat Rockford Auburn (predominately with black team members) told Trowbridge:

“Coaches and players want officials who are going to get calls right. It doesn’t matter whether they are white or black or Hispanic.  Having said that, diversity is important. And since the players in basketball are very diverse, it’s beneficial to have a diverse officiating core as well.

Some say that there is a shortage of ‘black’ officials to do varsity games in the Rockford area. The problem is bigger than just a black or white issue, officials in many sports are needed.

Sam Knox – Illinois High School Association Assistant Executive Director

The low number of sports officials is not just specific to Illinois. It is a nation-wide issue. Many states are experimenting with new ideas to recruit officials and to make an appeal to those who might be interested in staying involved with high school athletics.

In Illinois, we offer two free registrations each school year to every IHSA member school in the state. We encourage the principal and athletic director to identify two students who have the characteristics of a good official to register with the IHSA.

We aren’t at a point yet where schools are having to reschedule games due to a lack of officials, but in some sports, there is a legitimate concern about what the landscape might look like in a few years as many of our veteran officials hang up their whistles.

Those who have ever considered officiating but aren’t sure where to start can contact the IHSA office or a local official who lives nearby. There are many people in the officiating community who are eager to help new officials get started.

This is not the first racial related issue with athletics in the RPS 205 system this past school year. During the football season six Rockford Auburn players took a knee during the national anthem, the first time it happened it went viral on social media.  Local school officials did not take action against the players who took a knee during the season.

In a statement on what took place:

Auburn Head Football Coach Dan Appino

The student athletes said they wanted to create more social awareness of racial injustice in America.


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