For a short time tonight, ESPN Mobile’s headline for the story on Jeremy Lin and the Knicks’ disappointing loss to the Hornets was “Chink in the Armor.” Whether or not this was a mistake, a pun-gone-too-far or just outright ignorance isn’t clear, but whatever the case, this incident is just going to add fuel to the fire of the “Jeremy-Lin-is-only-popular-because-of-his-race” conversation as well as the “Jeremy-Lin-is-held-back-by-his-nationality-and-these-racial-slurs” side.
Don’t get me wrong, this kind of ignorantly racist crap shouldn’t happen, but the discussion this mistake is going to generate is the last thing Linsanity needed. Viewers are already starting to complain about Sportscenter’s excessive coverage, so now with all of ESPN’s upcoming apologies and increased coverage to make up for the mistake, Linsanity will become even more annoying than Tebowmania. Between ESPN and the Twitter universe blowing up, the focus of Lin’s great story will once again shift from being about his talents on the court to being about how his race affects his opportunities. And even though it’s not his fault, people will come to resent Lin (just like Tebow) because they’ll get sick of hearing about every angle to his journey. We need to stop analyzing him as an Asian-American for awhile and start looking at him as a basketball player again.
We shouldn’t be colorblind by any means, because the fact that Lin is an Asian-American NBA star is a fact that should be celebrated. It makes him special and makes the NBA more accessible to a larger fan base. But we need to stop focusing on Lin’s story because of how “controversial” people are making his race out to be and remember that the true magic of this story lies within the basketball angle. What this kid has done in the past week makes a remarkable story regardless of nationality and it would be a shame for such a great story to be overshadowed like that.
Update: ESPN issued its apology and fired the employee responsible for the ESPN Mobile mistake. ESPN also suspended the news anchor who also used the phrase for 30 days.