The puns and phrases for Jeremy Lin and the impact he has made on the NBA and New York City have been creative, but have recently come with the price of also being controversial...and racial.
Lin, his recent success and his background have generated debatable racial reaction that could last as long as he stays in the national spotlight. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)
Lin, an Asian-American, is the first American-born player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent to play in the NBA. And, in about two weeks and just 10 starts, he has sparked Lin-sanity, averaging 25 points and nine assists and leading the Knicks to an 8-2 record.
Some might consider Lin's racial background as an underscore to his journey that led to him becoming the starting point guard of the New York Knicks. And maybe that is rightfully so.
But does his race warrant the use of headlines, criticisms or witty remarks that seem to be superficially swallowed up in all the excitement and craze?
Opinions will differ there. And who knows if more of those headlines, criticisms and remarks will come.
For now, though, let's look at the ones that have come, and have caused quite the stir.
Chink in the Armor
This is arguably the most offensive headline from a mainstream media outlet.
Several hours after the New Orleans Hornets snapped the seven-game winning streak of the Knicks on Friday, ESPN ran the headline Chink in the Armor to accompany the game story on mobile devices. The headline was quickly noticed and quickly circulated on Twitter.
After 35 minutes, the headline was changed to All Good Things..
On Saturday morning, Kevin Ota, ESPN's Director of Communications, Digital Media ESPN Communications, posted a statement on the ESPN Media Zone Web site, saying:
Last night, ESPN.com's mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET. The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET. We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.
Anthony Federico, the ESPN editor who used Chink in the Armor, was fired Sunday. ESPN also suspended anchor Max Bretos for 30 days because he had used the same expression on the air last week.
ESPN then apologized again, but this time to Lin himself.
We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN. Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future.
New York Post
After Lin's stunning, buzzer-beating, game-winning three-point shot against the Toronto Raptors on Valentine's Day, the New York Post drew eyebrows for the headline AMASIAN! on its back page sports in an attempt to play on the 1969 Amazin' Mets.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted: #linsanity headline in NY Post: AMASIAN! #questionable
Another reader tweeted: New York Post is an absolute disgrace having the sports headline read Amasian.... This is why people dot focus on his actual skill and act.
Another reader, though, praised the headline, tweeting: Today's NY Post Lin headline: Amasian! #greatestheadlineever
The Knicks Good Fortune
After the Knicks beat the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, MSG Network showed a graphic with a cutout of Lin's smiling face hovering over a cracked open fortune cookie. The accompanying text read The Knicks Good Fortune.
CNBC's Darren Rovell was the first to post the image on Twitter. He also wrote: MSG walking a fine line with this Lin fortune cookie graphic tonight.
Some viewers believed MSG itself created the image, but a network spokesperson said on Thursday that it was merely a fan's sign.
What appeared briefly last night was not an MSG graphic, it was one of many fan signs in the arena.
One person reacted, tweeting: Ummm... does anyone else feel like MSG having Jeremy Lin coming out of a fortune cookie is a tad on the racist side?? Smdh #GoKnicks
Another tweeted: Jeremy lin has inspired so much accidental racism... Broken fortune cookie with lin's face is not a good look @msgnetworks
All the Hype is because He's Asian
The day before Lin's stunning, buzzer-beating, game-winning three-point shot against the Toronto Raptors on Valentine's Day, boxer Floyd Mayweather tweeted this:
Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he's Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise.
Mayweather drew much fervor and responded to the story later the same day via a series of tweets.
Its OK for ESPN to give their opinion but I say something and everyone questions Floyd Mayweather, he tweeted. I'm speaking my mind on behalf of other NBA players. They are programmed to be politically correct and will be penalized if they speak up.
Other countries get to support/cheer their athletes and everything is fine. As soon as I support Black American athletes, I get criticized.
A Couple of Inches of Pain
Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock played off an Asian stereotype after Lin's 38-point performance that lead to a 92-85 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, tweeting:
Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple of inches of pain tonight.
On that, the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) sent a letter to Whitlock asking for an apology:
Dear Mr. Whitlock:
Where do we begin?
Let's start by saying that your tweet in the midst of the Jeremy Lin hoopla was inappropriate on so many levels. Certainly, it doesn't hold up to the conduct of responsible journalists, those in sports or otherwise, who adhere to standards of fairness, civility and good taste. Nor does it meet the standards of Fox Sports, with which you are associated.
Outrage doesn't begin to describe the reaction of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) to your unnecessary and demeaning tweet of Feb. 10 after the New York Knicks played the Los Angeles Lakers: Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple of inches of pain tonight.
Let's not pretend we don't know to what you were referring. The attempt at humor - and we hope that is all it was - fell flat. It also exposed how some media companies fail to adequately monitor the antics of their high-profile representatives. Standards need to be applied - by you and by Fox Sports.
The offensive tweet debased one of sports' feel-good moments, not just among Asian Americans but for so many others who are part of your audience.
Where do we go from here? How about an apology, Mr. Whitlock.
Whitlock apologized, though some might argue the oddity of it:
I get Linsanity. I've cried watching Tiger Woods win a major golf championship. Jeremy Lin, for now, is the Tiger Woods of the NBA. I suspect Lin makes Asian Americans feel the way I feel when I watch Tiger play golf.
I should've realized that Friday night when I watched Lin torch the Lakers. For Asian Americans and a lot of sports fans, his nationally televised 38-point outburst was the equivalent of Tiger's first victory in The Masters. I got caught up in the excitement. I tweeted about what a great story Lin is and how he could rival Tim Tebow.
I then gave in to another part of my personality - my immature, sophomoric, comedic nature. It's been with me since birth, a gift from my mother and honed as a child listening to my godmother's Richard Pryor albums. I still want to be a standup comedian.
The couple-inches-of-pain tweet overshadowed my sincere celebration of Lin's performance and the irony that the stereotype applies to pot-bellied, overweight male sports writers, too. As the Asian American Journalist Association pointed out, I debased a feel-good sports moment. For that, I'm truly sorry.