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Stop The Linsanity: ESPN’s “Chink in the Armor” Just the Latest Racist Sports Caption for Jeremy Lin

February 21, 2012

Okay, I think I’ve compiled a list of all of the Jeremy Lin psuedo-racial occasionally funny / basketball type puns over the last two weeks.

  • Linsanity
  • Lin Empire
  • Who Says Asians Can’t Drive
  • Lin-Sane in the Membrane
  • I want you Lin-Side me
  • Half man Half-AnAsian
  • Taking Opponents to the Cleaners (From Conan O’Brien)
  • Lin-Credible
  • Peking Dunk, Rice Capades and Moo Goo Guy Slam (from HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher)
  • I’m AllLin
  • Linnin’
  • Amasian

Did I miss any? Apparently, I did because on Friday ESPN editor Anthony Frederico and others came up with another pun that put the mothership of sports news in hot water. After a Knicks loss on Friday night to the visiting Denver Nuggets, where Lin actually played poorly by the high standards he’s set for himself (8-18 from the floor for 26 points, 5 assists, 9 turnovers and 4 steals) ESPN ran with the headline:

A Chink in the Armor

That’s right. A CHINK in the armor. Ever since Asian American, Harvard educated Jeremy Lin has burst onto the NBA scene, the racial and racist puns and jokes have been coming out of newscasters faster than a Bob Hope special from the 70’s. However, the “Chink” headline, which appeared on ESPN mobile for almost 30 minutes before it was taken down is one of the most indelible signs that America isn’t quite mature enough to deal with diverse sports stars right now.

To his credit Anthony Frederico, the fired editor, apologized profusely, said that he had used the phrase “a hundred times” in other headlines but completely understood why ESPN did what they did. I actually believe him too, over at Deadspin.com they’ve put together a wonderful collection of blatantly racist comments about Jeremy Lin from sports analysts across the country. These range from a previous ESPN on air use of ‘Chink in the Armor’ to a New York sportscaster asking about Lin’s “eyes”.

I’m actually not that angry at ESPN or the editor because I think sometimes mistakes are made, but I do wonder exactly why so many people are having such cognitive dissonance about an Asian man playing basketball in New York. This whole sensation is like a miniaturized sports version of the Obama presidency – where many people, primarily White Americans, just blurt out whatever racial meme is left over in their brains because they can’t reconcile having a minority in a position of prominence or power. It’s not as if ESPN has been free from racist or sexist controversy before – when Saturday Night Live starts cracking on you in their opening sketch you know there’s more source material there than a bad story title for a Friday night game.

The real issue will be when an outside of the court incident happens with Lin. For all of the bigotry and ignorant comments made about him on ESPN or any other individual sportscaster the general feeling in the press and amongst fans is that Lin is great for the game, is saving the Knicks and is a hot guy worthy of college groupies from Florida State. However, one of these nights he’s going to be out, with friends, teammates or family and someone is going to go over the line.

To him or someone he’s with. When that happens we’ll see a lot about ESPN, and America in general. Will the public still be Lin-Satiable when he snaps and cusses someone out for a racist slur? Will he be considered Lin-Vincible when a group of drunk NBA fans calls him a slur at a post game party and a fight breaks out? These are not worst case scenarios, they are the kinds of things that happen to star athletes in America no matter how much they try to stay out of the spotlight. For good or ill, The Jeremy Lin Show is just starting, and if being referred  to as a “Chink in the Armor” is the worst thing that happens to him he’ll be lucky.

This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.

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