Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Everything Is Rigged

Referees, judges and moderators across the world are feeling the heat. Although referees make far better calls than before, nobody praises the refs. In fact, people are angrier than ever.


First, let’s narrow down the question by picking a specific field. The NBA is a great example of what’s happening in the world of shot calling.

The current NBA commissioner has spent fifteen million dollars on a replay centre—that’s one hundred ten screens with different angles of the court—to give sport officials another tool to get it right.

Plus, the sports officials are forced to undergo extensive training from an air force general where they learn about their cognitive biases and blindspots.

In short, the NBA is doing all it can to develop better refs. And it’s working. Bad calls are at an all-time low.

But nobody seems to care.

In fact, the players are getting increasingly upset about fouls.

One of the Warriors headbutted a ref. Another bounced his mouthguard off the ref’s chest. And one player was suspended for calling the ref a “fucking bitch.”

These are not just any players. It’s the team stars.

Super star Kevin Durant was thrown out of five games by acting out against the ref. And the coaches aren’t doing much better.

The weirdest thing is perhaps that these players and coaches are usually well-behaved. Even when playing their greatest rivals.

But when faced with a ‘bad’ call from a ref, they throw a hissy fit.

Nobody trusts the protectors of fairness. Everyone thinks they can do better.

Which is why the NBA wants to protect the authority of the referee, by giving the sports official a $15 million dollar fact-checker. 

And if you thought your job was stressful, the NBA tracks every referee error, which decides how many games they can judge, and the size of their salary. No other profession is more analysed than the NBA official.

Even by people who aren’t on the payroll of the NBA.

A professor of the University of Pennsylvania wrote a paper that shows how white referees called more fouls against black players then against white players. Another paper by assistant professor Justin Wolfers found a similar bias where black officials called fouls more often against white players.

The best part? A later study showed that the racial bias was gone.

And within the NBA, that’s a continuing trend: every flaw that gets pointed out, gets fixed.

But that increase in fairness also has a flipside, everything mistake you make as a ref gets logged and blown out of proportion.

Which has terrifying consequences. Lethal consequences.

Referees regularly get death threats during the play-offs. So now the officials have bodyguards to escort them to and away from the game. 

Let me repeat that. Referees who are protecting the fairness of a basketball game, have bodyguards to protect them against potential murderers.


Anyway, let’s return to the big question. Why are people so angry with refs, judges and moderators?

Because a truly neutral shot caller is offensive to a privileged person. 

As we saw in the NBA, only the stars and coaches are getting upset with the referees. And if fans see a superstar infuriated by a bad call, the fans do the same. After all, we feel like the best can impossibly be wrong.

Everything is rigged to the person who wants to do as he pleases.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach