On Tuesday, Jeremy Lin rose above the sea of racism to offer the country a teachable moment about compassion and forgiveness.
According to Newsday, New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin had lunch with the former ESPN editor who was fired last month for writing a headline that included a derogatory word aimed at Lin's ethnicity. Lin met with Anthony Federico during a Knicks off-day on Tuesday.
Federico explains to Newsday:
The fact that he took the time to meet with me in his insanely busy schedule... He's just a wonderful, humble person. He didn't have to do that. We talked more about matters of faith [and] reconciliation. We talked about our shared Christian values and what we're both trying do with this situation... We didn't talk about the headline for more than three minutes.
Federico found himself at the center of a controversy several hours after the Knicks first loss since the start of Linsanity (to the New Orleans Hornets on Feb. 17).
After Jeremy Lin's rise to stardom in possibly the feel-good story of the year in the NBA, it appeared as though many were just waiting for this story to have a crash ending. Seemingly out of nowhere rose a star who essentially went un-recruited out of high school, went un-drafted out of Harvard, and then bounced around from team to team during his first year-and-a-half in professional basketball. Keeping in mind that Lin spent an NBA summer league stint with one team, part of an NBA season with another, and was cut after logging all of seven minutes in the preseason with a third, and signed with a fourth only with the understanding that as soon as the expected roster was healthy, he would be cut again.
Then it happened.
He received his chance to play and he absolutely shined. He became an overnight sensation and a star. The Knicks went on an amazing winning streak and his 109 points in his first four starts surpassed Allen Iverson's to become the most by any player since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976.
Then, on Feb 17 the winning streak came to a screeching halt.
Jeremy Lin didn't have his best game. He scored 26 points which is an excellent game by most standards, but the focus was on his nine turnovers. Statistically speaking, the nine turnovers was a tie for the most turnovers in the NBA at that point in the season. The Lin-ning streak was officially over, the Knicks fell back below 500, and the Lin-critics were gearing up to end the honeymoon in the city that never sleeps.
Then came the headline that shocked the world. I won't repeat exactly what it said, but by now everyone has heard exactly what the headline read. It was only seen via mobile platforms, and was changed after 35 minutes, but not before it had been widely captured via Twitpics and Instagrams.
Not only Lin supporters but people all over the country were in an uproar and utterly shocked. There was criticism pouring in from all angles.
ESPN issued an apology vowing to conduct a complete review of their cross-platform editorial procedures to find out how exactly this wasn't red flagged before going public. And added that their goal was to ensure that this mistake on their part didn't happen again.
Later, it was announced that the editor responsible for this, Anthony Federico, was being relieved of his duties at ESPN, and that they were aware of two other "offensive and inappropriate" comments. An ESPNEWS anchor who used the same phrase was suspended for 30 days. The cable network said a similar reference was made on ESPN Radio New York, but the commentator is not an ESPN employee.
Shortly after being fired from ESPN, Federico expressed his regret to the Daily News saying that his use of the cliche was an "honest mistake."
"This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny," Federico told the News at the time. "I'm so sorry that I offended people. I'm so sorry I offended Jeremy Lin"
Lin's reaction wasn't one of disdain or anger, but yet forgiveness and compassion. He even expressed that the headline could have been unintentional as Federico expressed, and that he didn't feel that he was a racist.
"ESPN has apologized," Lin said after the Knicks' next game, a win over the Dallas Mavericks. "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."
This very kind of casual racism, intentional or unintentional that Lin has faced is something he shouldn't have to endure -- the anti-Asian Twitter jokes, the Yellow Mamba signs, the mock Chinese talk, the catcalls from people attending the games, the fact that ESPN had to apologize for something which never should have happened in the first place, the Ben & Jerry's "Taste the Lin-Sanity" vanilla frozen yogurt with lychee honey swirls and fortune-cookie pieces, and MSG -- who happens to be the New York Knicks TV broadcast partner -- showing viewers an image featuring Jeremy Lin's head in between ends of a broken fortune cookie with the sentence "The Knicks' Good Fortune" on a piece of paper. But through it all, Jeremy Lin has been a class act expressing nothing more but a devotion to his faith and a desire to play basketball. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to rise above the cloud of ignorance. But it appears as though Jeremy Lin has the ability to do so.
Follow Etan Thomas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/etanthomas36