We as a society recognize that discriminating against someone based on the color of their skin, or sexual orientation, is flat out wrong. That discriminating on the basis of inborn qualities that cannot be controlled by the individual, is deeply & fundamentally unfair.
Well, what about height?
Is it ok for major institutions in our society to discriminate on the basis of height, when choosing who to hire? I would certainly hope not. Just like racial discrimination, I’m sure certain small amounts of height discrimination are bound to occur. But if we see an organization or institution where such discrimination is glaringly obvious & easily proven, shouldn’t we as a society step in & try to remedy this in the best way we can?
Let’s take a look at the epicenter of height-discrimination: The NBA
- 42% of American males are 5’9 or shorter. And yet, 0.45% of NBA players fall into this category.
- 80% of American males are under 6 feet tall. And yet, only 3.5% of NBA players can say the time.
- 99.9% of American males are 6’4 or shorter. And yet, the average height in the NBA is still 6’7.
Assuming basketball as a sport did not penalize players for their height, we would expect there to be:
- 360 NBA players under 6 feet in height
- 90 NBA players over 6 feet in height
What the numbers currently look like:
- 16 NBA players under 6 feet in height
- 434 NBA players over 6 feet in height
Under the current NBA rules, the number of under-6-feet people who were denied the opportunity to play in the NBA due to height discrimination: 344
The number of over-6-feet people who became NBA players due to height-discrimination in their favor: 344
That’s right. Out of 450 players in the NBA, 76% of them are only there due to height discrimination. These 344 players are keeping out others who deserve their spot, but were denied this dream due to height discrimination.
Now what if we considered a drastic solution: Ban anyone over 6-feet in height from playing in the NBA.
What the player height distribution would now look like:
- 450 NBA players under 6-feet
- 0 players over 6-feet
Compare this to the ideal & fair height distribution:
- 360 under 6 feet
- 90 over 6 feet
Net result under this new policy: 90 players would be unfairly locked out of the NBA due to height-discrimination. However, these 90 players only represent 20% of the NBA players.
Hence, by instituting this ban-on-anyone-over-6-feet, we can cut down the number of undeserving NBA players from 76% of the player base, to 20%. This solution may not be perfect, but anytime we can cut down discrimination from 76% to 20%, that’s a huge win worth pursuing.
The argument in favor of instituting this ban seems obvious: Cutting down discrimination by an order of magnitude and making the NBA accessible to the vast majority of Americans. Are there any reasons why we shouldn’t pursue this ban?
1. “Banning tall players would make the games less fun to watch.” Completely bogus. Player height in the NBA is just like Einstein’s famous theory; it’s all relative. If every single NBA player shrunk by 12-inches right before the start of the game, and the basketball hoop was lowered by 12-inches as well to compensate, the audience would never know the difference. The game would play itself out in almost the exact same way, and it would be exactly as enjoyable to watch as it was before.
2. “Shorter people are less athletic than tall people, and therefore, deserve to be under-represented.” Again, completely bogus. For any person not suffering from malnutrition, his height is 99% determined by genetics, and is absolutely independent of how fit, healthy, agile or dextrous he is. Shorter men are just as athletic as taller men, and would be equally represented in any sport that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of height. Looking at Football (Soccer) for example, a sport that demands just as much athleticism as basketball, statistics show that professional footballers have heights that match that of the general population.
3. “What about people who are stronger or more fit? Aren’t they overrepresented? Should we ban them too?” Of course not. Unlike height, these other qualities like strength & speed can be trained & developed by anyone. Our society rewards people for earned talents, such as educational or technical proficiency, all the time. Height, on the other hand, isn’t an earned quality. It’s more like race, something we are innately born with & cannot alter. Hence why it is immoral to discriminate on the basis of these innate qualities, such as height or race.
4. “A player’s height is instrumental in fulfilling the job role. Hence why discriminating on the basis of height should be allowed.” This is only true under current NBA rules. Team owners are forced to discriminate on the basis of height when hiring players, because the only players who can successfully fulfill the job role tend to be tall players. However, changing the NBA rules to ban over-6-feet players would resolve this dilemma. A 5’10 player would now be able to fulfill the job role if he trains hard enough, and can thus earn his spot on the team. And the business customers for their part (spectators), would find themselves watching a game that is just as exciting and entertaining as it always was.
5. “This new rule discriminates against people who are tall!” Guilty as charged. But which is worse? Discriminating against 344 individuals for being too short? Or discriminating against 60 individuals for being too tall? Imposing a 6-foot-height maximum rule would cut down discrimination in the NBA from 76% to 20%. Ideally, we should find some way to remedy even this problem. However, just like in the real world, we can never reach an ideal solution. But that shouldn’t stop us from taking steps in the right direction.
6. “What about players who are 5’8 or shorter? Under this new rule, wouldn’t someone who’s 5’11 still have an unfair advantage over them?” This is somewhat true, but isn’t as big a problem. If you look at the list of NBA greats, many of them are multiple inches shorter than their opponents, and yet still outclassed them with other skills. Being an entire foot shorter is a recipe for disaster, but being a few inches shorter still allows for a relatively even match-up. A 5’8 player may be locked out completely by a 6’8 opponent, but he will still be able to compete somewhat evenly against a 5’11 opponent. Once again, this is still not an ideal situation, but that shouldn’t stop us from taking steps in the right direction.
There are millions of children who grow up every year, dreaming of becoming a sports superstar like their idols on television. Most of them will never realize this dream, but every one of them deserves a fair shot at it. Under the current paradigm, 99% of kids will grow up to realize that they will never be given a fair shake in the NBA, simply due to their genetic height. They will grow up to realize, either consciously or subconsciously, that most of the stars making millions of dollars in the NBA, are there only because of a height discrimination system that unfairly rewards them for being born a certain way, while simultaneously locking out millions others for being born in a different way. We may never be able to bring these numbers down to 0. But it’s time we tried.
P.S. For anyone who’s wondering, I’m half joking, but also half serious.