Jeremy Lin has heard it before.
As an Asian-American basketball player struggling for years to realize his NBA dreams, Lin has dealt with the overt racism of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Jason Whitlock as well as the coded compliments of those who marvel at how "deceptively athletic" he can be. Having endured racial taunts throughout his life on the court, Lin may have been among those least shocked by the offensive headline that ESPN ran to accompany a story about the New York Knicks' loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday.
After that loss, ESPN promoted an article about the game on its mobile platforms by pairing an image of Lin with the headline "Chink In The Armor." The headline lasted less than an hour before being swapped for "All Good Things...," but drew withering and widespread criticism, notably from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). On Saturday morning, ESPN apologized for the offensive headline and promised "a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures."
“ESPN has apologized,” Lin said after the Knicks' impressive win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. “I don’t think it was on purpose or whatever. At the same time, they’ve apologized, and so from my end I don’t care anymore. [You] have to learn to forgive. And I don’t even think that was intentional, or hopefully not."
On Sunday, ESPN announced the firing of the editor responsible for publishing the headline. ESPN also revealed that disciplinary action had been taken against an ESPN News anchor who had previously used the same phrase while discussing Lin's meteoric rise with Knicks broadcaster and NBA Hall of Famer Walt Frazier.
The former ESPN employee, Anthony Frederico, responsible for publishing the offensive headline spoke with the Daily News, both to apologize for any harm done but also to claim that he had not used the phrase with any racial motivation.
"This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny," Anthony Federico told the Daily News. "I'm so sorry that I offended people. I'm so sorry if I offended Jeremy."
Frederico claimed to the Daily News that his choice of the oft-used sports cliche was an "honest mistake" and not intended to make light of a racial slur used against Asians.
"I think that the use of the term is appalling and offensive," Chu said on MSNBC. “The ‘c’ word is for Asian Americans like the ‘n’ word is for African Americans."
Less than 24 hours after ESPN's headline, "Saturday Night Live" addressed Linsanity in its opening sketch, focusing on the overuse of puns as well as the prevalence of racial stereotypes in media commentary about the Knicks' point guard. Aside from calling out various members of the media -- ESPN, the New York Post and MSG -- for offensive references to Lin, the sketch not-so-subtly suggested that there is the sort of double standard at work that congresswoman Chu would later refer to during her appearance on MSNBC.
According to a former Harvard teammate, Lin was previously taunted with the C-word during his Ivy League days and dealt with other racist gibes, such as the time when someone in the stands yelled "sweet-and-sour pork" when the Crimson were taking on Georgetown on the road.
So, whether the headline was intentionally offensive or not, Lin has certainly heard many of these things before. And, sadly, he may very well hear it again.
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