So I was chillin’ at Katsucon over the weekend admiring the cosplayers walking by and trying to figure out what a Home Stuck is when my good friend Dern turns to me with a face of anger that I hope his son will never witness and shows me this headline on his mobile phone:

Really? REALLY?

So it’s been a few days since the headline ran. The web editor who posted it has been fired, and apparently the news anchor who used the phrase on television is facing a 30 day suspension. Both the editor and the news anchor have said that their use of the phrase was unintentional. And Jeremy Lin himself has decided to let bygones be bygones.

But I’m still pissed.

The Jeremy Lin story has be framed in such a way that it makes it almost impossible to ignore his ethnicity. It should be something along the lines of, “Unnoticed talent rises from obscurity” rather than “Oh, shit! Asian kid got game!” To me, his story speaks more to problems of the NBA hype machine, that if you’re not already a huge name, you’re virtually ignored. Here’s a guy who was benched for games fighting for one of the last spots on the team. Hell, the Nicks were considering dropping him. And now look, they can’t stop talking about him!

It’s an amazing Cinderella story.

But the bit that gets emphasized is that he’s Asian. Now, I think it’s awesome that he’s Asian American and he’s kicking so much ass. But I don’t need the sports media to remind me every time they write about him. You know how I know he’s Asian? I can see him in the photo that they run with every story! But the press can’t stop themselves. I could almost believe that ESPN’s use of the “Chink in the Armor” headline was unintentional if they never made a big deal out of Jeremy Lin’s ethnicity. But it’s been a big deal to them since the start. “Well shit on me, who knew Asians could play basketball?” We got arms and legs, right? OF COURSE WE CAN FUCKING PLAY BASKETBALL!

You can write a story about a baller who was virtually ignored until given a chance. You can write a story about an Asian American baller who was virtually ignored until given a chance. But as soon as you make his ethnicity a big deal, you don’t get to claim ignorance when you “Chink” out like that.

  • Piotr Berlowski

    This is definitely an American thing. I mean – I’ve been staring at the headline for like 10 minutes trying to figure what got you worked up and I just didn’t seem to catch it.
    Now, don’t take me wrong. What I’m trying to do here is to highlight some cultural difference. I do understand your point now and can see where the offense lies. I’m just saying that down here, in the Eastern Europe, we don’t seem to have so much ethnic diversity. We, thus, seem not to grasp the concept of it being offensive to underline the origin of a person in a given context.
    As in: most of the people playing in the football (soccer) teams are of native background. So if a person of, say, Asian ethnicity is contracted by a team and thanks to that player they skyrocket through the league and finish first, then the news will definitely note that the player is of foreign origin. It’s a novelty, something that stands out about this person. Kind of a distinguishing characteristic, although one which does not define the quality of a man himself.Now please, I’m writing the above in good faith and to maybe start an interesting discussion about customs and difference in understanding of some ethnic references in various parts of the world. If you find what I’ve written offensive on some level, it’s involuntary and feel free to point it out to me so I can understand the issue at hand better.Best regards!

  • Drezz Rodriguez

    The NBA did the same thing about Eastern European players, and when Vlade Divac made a mark while on the Lakers, everyone couldn’t stop talking about them. Then came the Spaniards, and then the attention was turned to Asians – how quickly people forgot about Yao Ming??

    Jeremy Lin is good – but he’s a depth player. THAT should be why he’s making headlines. Not because he’s Asian.

    And the Chink in the Armor quip… seriously? Does anyone proof these
    things before they go to air / released to media? Who thought that would

  • awesomemvs

    HAHAHAHAHAHA they deserved to be fired I wouldn’t do something that stupid in a piece if I was typing blindfolded STUPID STUPID ESPN YOU SUCK the news anchor used it on television? Is it the fucking nineteen fifties?! I sometimes wonder if all sports news anchors really did have their brains removed, mispronouncing names, forming vague opinions, attempting in-jokes…this is the worst. Humiliating.

    Chinese basketball is not a big deal anymore. There have been amazing Chinese ballers in the past and China is strong in basketball. Asian-American ballers, not so much. It’s STUPID how they’re making it like Marry Me Lin’s only big deal is his race. So no, they even got the slur wrong.

    Here’s the deal, Jamie. Jeremy broke the machine. NBA basketball is not just a hype machine, but a hype factory. Kids in middle school get noticed and their game videos become viral online (check and they get offers to colleges before they’re even teenagers. Recruiting is aggressive, and it’s not just Lebron going from high school to the NBA type aggressive–college basketball has huge contracts with TV and media networks. The kids get a free “education” that they can’t actually educate themselves through often, because the NCAA adds more and more games for the TV networks and moves around conferences to accomodate TV contracts (pac-12, big 10, etc.) and these people are flying across the country to make games, all unpaid, while there are loopholes around educational requirements. Basically, these usually lower-income students do not get a full education before they hit the NBA and people often don’t care and then they become humorous figures when they get into legal trouble, paternity suits, gun offenses, or being caught on a Vespa with weapons strapped to you (Hello Delonte West).

    Jajuan Johnson and E”Twaun Moore–rookies drafted by the Boston Celtics–are two examples of non-Asian NBA players with college degrees. Many NBA players don’t have them. I believe in kids using their amazing athletic abilities they got through hard work to get to a college and find all the opportunities it offers, and many do that. But many become bit-player bench-player slaves to the NBA system.

    I gushed about Jeremy Lin here before all this insanity (I’m sorry, Linsanity) started, so I’m not going to bore you, but Jeremy did not get a scholarship, Jeremy graduated Harvard with a 3.70 GPA or something in Economics, Jeremy played for the Warriors where he was a “glorified human victory cigar” and now, Jeremy is playing beautifully for New York out of his damn hard work and people act like it’s a big deal BECAUSE OF HIS RACE. When it should be because he BROKE THE SYSTEM like every player should do. People try to trick these kids, make them sign contracts, flatter them, use them, all the time and they should make education and personal development a priority like Jeremy had to because when he was applying to colleges nobody cared about him.

    I want everyone to read his Sports Illustrated article five years ago where he was profiled at Harvard. It’s really nice. There are many players like Jeremy in the NBA, but I guess they aren’t noticed because they aren’t Asian American and Asian Americans are only supposed to be good at some things! Bullshit. Black people aren’t supposed to be good at hockey! Bullshit. Only lesbians play sports! Bullshit. I love sports so much and I’m a baller. If you really love sports, this sort of pigeonholing, generalizing, gut-punching stupidity on the part of the media that eats athletes up really makes you mad.

    Jimmer Fredette is a white kid who was a star at BYU, and he received some of the same attention as Jeremy, I guess without the public slurring. But now, he’s being compared to Jeremy. It’s my personal opinion that they are different, vastly. Jimmer has this airy game, like he’s in outer space, laser-aiming baskets in. Jeremy’s game is destroying himself getting to the basket and keeping ridiculously cool in pressure situations “Oh a Laker is blocking me I’ll dribble step right of him and make the shot anyway”.

    The sports media is so stupid that they can’t focus on sports. I sometimes feel like me and my friend really could get work there.

  • awesomemvs

     It’s not that they highlight his ethnicity, it’s that they obsessed over it, and also they used the slur “Chink” which is an offensive and stupid term for a Chinese person, as a retarded pun that makes you want to punch the writer. Jeremy is Asian American, not Chinese (Yao Ming was Chinese). If they mentioned his ethnicity respectfully, and in passing, it would be different.

  • Doug

    Did they use the slur “Chink” or did they use the phrase “Chink in the Armor” which is constantly used in sports and has nothing to do with ethnicity?

  • awesomemvs

    The thing is that puns are the staple of sports highlight headlines in America. The fans hate them but they’re there. And this was intentionally referring to Jeremy. 
    If Jimmer Fredette did 80 points in one game and led the Jazz over the Sixers or something and the headline would be “Honky Tonk!” it would be just as embarassing.

    Also, a chink in the armor is a vulnerability. On its own it wouldn’t make sense because it would have to refer to a weak player on the other team, not to Jeremy Lin, who is not a “chink” (in terms of a weakness)

  • awesomemvs

    But this was a novel! Last time i read sports marginalization headlines before my morning soymilk. Sorry for the wall of text everyone!

  • Doug

    The article was about the only loss the Knicks have had with Jeremy Lin as a starter. Therefore the “Chink in the Armor” was meant as “perhaps the other teams have figured out how to beat the Knicks with Lin as the helm.” The analogy applies.

    “Honky Tonk” is not an apt comparison. I can’t think of one that is. This is a phrase that is common in sports and now people are continuing to use it but referencing an Asian player and it is suddenly a terrible think to say.

  • CumaeanSibyl

    I do believe this was unintentional, because sports writers use that phrase a lot, and I don’t think the four-letter would be stupid enough to do this deliberately. What probably happened is that everybody who saw this before it went out was white, so nobody caught it. That’s also a serious problem, one that crops up in all kinds of industries — advertising is notorious for it — the problem of systemic white privilege. White people don’t have to worry about racism as much as minorities, they don’t have to look at things from other perspectives, and they tend to get the most promotions, so you end up with a bunch of white people on top who just won’t see this stuff until it’s too late.

    Regardless, I think it was right to fire this guy. A very important part of your job as a headline writer is to avoid offensive puns. And I know sometimes it’s impossible not to, like when writing about Anthony Weiner’s sex scandal, but there’s a big difference between a dick joke and a racial slur. If you seriously can’t catch that kind of thing before it goes out, you need to pursue a different line of work.

  • Hamstadini

    You probably found out about this already at Katsucon, but Homestuck is made by MSPaintAdventures, and the younger sibling comic to Problem Sluth. Those two comics are the only internet content I would truly call Epic because they are just as long and as involved as the Illiad and the Odyssey. The author maintains a consistent style that alternates between creativity and humor, and the characters are likable.

    A couple of points though; some of the Homestuck text is LONG, and also it requires a flash player for some of the animated pieces (for iPhone/iPad I recommend the Photon Web Browser, which costs $3 but is well worth it.)

    About ESPN:

    Yesterday (February 20th, 2012 [a Monday]) the ESPN shows Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn confronted the issue about the title head-on. I think their arguments were well thought out and explored both sides of the issue without being defensive at all, and gave the sense that ESPN was really doing some self-examination. Basically what they said was: “We’re sorry, this is new to us, we’ll do better next time.”

    About Lin:

    The sports headline for the Associated Press today (February 21st, 2012) was “No win for Lin vs. Nets,” which is absolutely ridiculous. Aren’t there other Knicks players on the team? Last time I checked there were. The guy wins a few games and now every sports reporter is scrutinizing him like he’s the next Michael Jordan. He’s no superstar, not yet anyway. Let the guy play; at least he’s living his dream, unlike the other 99% of us.

    I think it’s time we tone down the fanaticism as well. I will thank him for his (unintentional?) stereotype-breaking ways, but the monolithic support he’s been getting from the nationwide Asian-American community is a little creepy. It’s like African-Americans voting for Obama just because he’s black, not making informed decisions about his policies. At this point I’ll say “Jeremy, thanks for going out there and representing, but I think I’ll return to rooting for the Warriors now.”

  • Jamie Noguchi

    “This is new to us?” They really said that? It’s new that people play basketball or that an Asian American plays basketball? Um… I guess I’d have to have seen the apology. But reporting on non-white people playing sports well is not new to anyone.

  • awesomemvs

    This may be the case. Thanks for enlightening me.