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Do the Blazers Get Penalized More for Wearing Black Uniforms?

The Blazers favor their black “Icon” jerseys at home, but a study suggests black-wearing teams are called for more penalties.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers ,along with many other NBA teams, have changed their home attire habits in the 2017-18 season. As a result of the NBA’s switch to Nike as a jersey provider, each home team is given first-choice in what jersey they’ll be wearing. The Blazers have often opted for their black “Icon” jersey at home, as opposed to past seasons with the standard home white jersey or the white, sleeved Rip City jerseys.

Geoff Haddock for Psychology Today stumbled upon a research article from the 1980s on uniform colors in sports. The researchers, Mark Frank and Thomas Gilovich, looked into teams that wear black with the thinking dark colors are often associated with negativity. They actually found a correlation between color and penalties:

They started by showing participants pictures of the uniforms of all National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League (NHL) teams. The participants, who were not sports fans (to avoid any effects about knowledge of any teams), rated each uniform on dimensions such as good/bad, timid/aggressive, and nice/mean (as an index of malevolence). The researchers found that teams with black uniforms (e.g., the Steelers and Raiders in the NFL, the Bruins and Flyers in the NHL) were perceived as more malevolent than teams with non-black uniforms.

The researchers began to examine this question by using archival statistics from the NFL and NHL. Using data from 1970 to the mid-1980s, the researchers compared penalty records (using penalty yards for the NFL and penalty minutes in the NHL) for teams with black versus non-black uniforms. For both sports, the results revealed that teams with black uniforms were penalized more than teams with non-black uniforms. Additional support for this hypothesis was found in data from the 1979-1980 Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, which changed its uniform colors from light blue to black in the middle of a season. Using predominantly the same players, the team averaged around eight penalty minutes per game in the non-black uniform, while averaging around 12 penalty minutes per game in the black uniforms.

Jerseys have inspired plenty of conversation this season. A possible Dr. Jack Ramsay-inspired jersey was leaked last week. Another alternate red jersey, inspired the opposite of the “look good, feel good mantra as Portland went 0-4 in a recent homestead while wearing them.

Maybe wearing the black jerseys at home makes the Blazers feel like the “Bad Boys” Jusuf Nurkic wanted them to be at the beginning of the season? Do you like black jerseys at home? Does a team’s jersey any given night affect their play, or is this all superstition?