On Friday, Feb. 17, the Knicks lost to the Hornets, 85–89. The Knicks’ seven-game winning streak was dead. In news outlets, point guard Jeremy Lin publicly blamed himself. After all, he had committed nine turnovers.
Overshadowing all of that was an unfortunate ESPN headline, which popped up online hours after the loss. The moment the words, “Chink in the armor” were posted, eyes were on it. Though ESPN realized the mistake and took it down 35 minutes later, it was too late. People were already talking about it. Screencaps had already been taken.
Afterward, ESPN delivered a rather tepid apology, which ended up enraging more people.
By Sunday, Anthony Federico, the headline writer, was fired from ESPN. Federico actually seemed rather repentant when he talked about it, saying that he had written the same kind of headline many, many times — of course, none of the other NBA players he referred to were Asian — and claimed it was an honest mistake.
Even if it had been an honest mistake, Federico should have been fired anyway. He’s a professional sports writer, not a high school kid trying to finish his essay at the 11th hour. It’s hard to imagine that with all the time he had to sit around and mull over his words, it never occurred to him that “chink in the armor” could be construed as an offensive racial pun. He clearly didn’t do his job well.
This isn’t an isolated incident either. ESPN suspended anchor Max Bretos for 30 days for using the same phrase over the air. “If there is a chink in the armor, where can he improve his game?” (Bretos’ punishment was lighter because he didn’t have the kind of time that Federico had to mull over his choice of words.)
Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. tweeted that the only reason Lin is getting any attention is due to his race.
According to Mayweather, Black NBA players apparently don’t get enough praise (or money or sponsorships or godlike reverence from the masses).
After the Knicks beat the Lakers 92–85, Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock probably thought he was really clever when he tweeted, “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.”
These sort of incidents are expected, of course. It just comes with the territory.
What would greatly help is if media organizations put out policy statements that clearly define the consequences of offensive employee conduct.
And what has been extremely heartening is the outpouring of support for Lin from his fans — as well as the outpouring of rage and indignation on Lin’s behalf. It’s also amazing that Lin’s fans seem to span all races.
They are all saying that casual, even unintentional, racism is not OK.
Many are clamoring for greater awareness, improved diversity training, better education — and we wholeheartedly support this movement. (end)