HONG KONG — There has been an angry and growing reaction to the use of the phrase “chink in the armor’’ on ESPN — once on air, then again on the network’s mobile Web site — in connection with New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American sensation.
An offending headline was posted on ESPN’s mobile site and cited Mr. Lin’s nine turnovers in the Knicks’ loss to the New Orleans Hornets, one of the worst teams in the N.B.A. The headline can be seen in a screen shot here and in the personal video clip below.
Those who write it’s an old phrase. I KNOW! But in reference to someone of Chinese descent, it’s racist!! “Chink” is our “N” word folks!
— Ming-Na(@MingNa) February 18, 2012
Somebody at @espn needs to be fired for that ‘Chink in the Armor’ headline. You do not want someone that stupid on your editorial staff.
— Angry Asian Man (@angryasianman) February 18, 2012
The same offensive phrase was used earlier, on ESPNews on Wednesday night, as an anchor, Max Bretos, was interviewing Walt Frazier, the former Knicks guard who is now an analyst on the local MSG Network. A brief video clip of Mr. Bretos’s comment is here, and a follow-up on-air apology from another ESPN anchor is here.
My colleague, Richard Sandomir, wrote about ESPN’s apologies for both incidents.
The written apology on the ESPN Web site said the mobile site had “posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 a.m. ET. The headline was removed at 3:05 a.m. 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.’’
A commenter on the ESPN site, Justin Wise, reacted this way: “Truthfully, you can’t file this one under ‘Oops, our bad.’ This is categorically one of the worst blunders I’ve ever seen in media. How something like this could pass through your filters, regardless of time, doesn’t matter. ESPN should be ashamed of themselves.’’
Officers of the Asian American Journalists Association called the wording of the headline “inexcusable.’’
A letter to ESPN on the group’s Facebook page said “this incident does not live up to the Leadership in Diversity Award that AAJA bestowed on ESPN in 2010. But we trust that you will transform this incident into a teachable moment.’’
In a comment on the Facebook page, however, there were dissenters, those who said the reaction was, well, an overreaction.
“Unfortunately, we have something called freedom of speech in this country,’’ said Eric Fürst. “Sounds like the AJAA is writing from the reference of its counterpart in China under the reigns of communism. And before you go out and attack me know this that people can speak their minds even if it offends you. You are the one allowing it to bother you. So I disagree with the AJAA and people’s responses on here.’’
Commenting on the 8Asians blog site, Yu888 wrote: “While clearly in the wrong category, I must admit I am more amused at the stupidity and less angry at the fact that it probably reflects the prevalent attitudes of many in the sports media industry. I suspect this was a coldly calculated move on ESPN’s part to draw more viewers . . . and it worked.’’
The blog site China Smack reports that the most popular issue of the day on Youku, the popular Chinese video-sharing Web site, was the ridiculing of a story about Mr. Lin — known in China as Lin Shuhao — playing for mainland China in the 2012 Olympics in London. The piece had more than 1.5 million page views and over 6,000 comments.
The original story appeared on Xinhua, the state-controlled Chinese news agency. It floated the preposterous idea that Mr. Lin might switch nationalities to play for Communist China — preposterous because he is an American, and doubly absurd because his family is from Taiwan. (In addition, Taiwan has appeared separately from China at the Olympics since 1984, competing under the name Chinese Taipei.)
Many are no doubt waiting to hear Mr. Lin’s personal reaction to the ESPN blunders. He has heard such remarks before, and worse, but we’re betting he takes the high road, along the lines of: “It hurts and bothers me, but it just shows that perhaps more education is needed about race in our country, more sensitivity, more consciousness-raising.”
The novelist Gabriel García Márquez has written movingly about “so many postponed rages, so many digested humiliations” — and perhaps Mr. Lin has already postponed enough, digested enough. Is it time for him, this admirable young man of Harvard, to let loose against such hurtful remarks?
What do you think? Should Mr. Lin shout down such slanders? Or should he let them slide?
Let us know with a comment. And as always, speak freely.