fags cost $500,000 apiece
vulgar language price-fixing in oligopolistic markets
Bob Huggins, the head coach of West Virginia’s men’s basketball team, said the following during a radio interview last week: “What it was—was all those fags. Those Catholic fags, I think.”
In response, West Virginia University reduced Bob Huggins’s salary by one-million dollars, effectively setting the oratorical price per “fag” to $500,000.
Economists call this price-setting.
A potentially unintended consequence of the social justice capitalism/woke capitalism/Bugles’ take on race development has been the widespread, largely-public deliberation of the monetary price of social crimes. Athletic institutions in particular have been leading the charge in determining the price of antisemitic, anti-trans, homophobic, and/or racist language. The average person—like me, you, your mom—have the privilege of going through life and experiencing things and seeing things and hearing things and saying, “that is a bad thing,” or “that word is a bad word.” But not college athletic departments. Nope. Not the NBA. Not the NFL. No, athletic institutions are tasked with constantly putting a precise monetary value on human expressions—(verbal or otherwise)—but the price of these particular expressions are determined on ill-defined and ever-changing market conditions (like what specific individual said the expression, where it was said, when it was said, and how much evidence of said expression exists). Or said otherwise: the proverbial goalpost of how much it will cost to say “The Asians love Macy’s,” moves significantly—depending on an asset’s current and possible future value, the asset’s prior performance, as well as its body type, injury history, home market size, and player efficiency rating.
I follow the NBA pretty closely. The last few “derogatory and offensive language” instances I remember off the top of my head are:
When Anthony Edwards was fined $40,000 for a homophobic Instagram post
When Meyers Leonard was fined $50,000 and effectively blacklisted from the league for two years for an antisemitic remark on a Twitch stream
When Kyrie Irving was fined the equivalent of $2.2 million for his failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs”
When Kyrie Irving was fined $50,000 for “middle finger gestures and profane language” during a game in Boston
These are just a couple recent examples—but this has been going on for as long as the league’s been around. Who can forget Edgar Amos Boyd, of the Green River Railmen, making a passing comment to the wife of Cheyenne Steel union leader, Frank Cosgrove, during the 1936 divisional championships?
Economics can be a pretty dull, stuffy profession (which makes sense, considering it was developed by Catholics). But all to say—it’s exciting (and a win for the profession, obviously) when key economic principles are on clear display in such a public, accessible way. And because economics can be a bit of a dismal science, we need to celebrate it when we can. We need to celebrate its lessons. We need to celebrate its victories, its achievements, and its scholars. And we also need to celebrate its founders. Or as Bob Huggins would say, “Celebrate those fags. Those Catholic fags.”
Maybe it was Adam Smith, you make the call