Seven wins running, Shaquille O’Neal’s scoring record to start a career falling — heck, stereotypes rattled and shaken with blinding, stutter-step drives through the lane — the first transcendent Asian American pro basketball player hit his first real speed bump in two weeks, when the Knicks fell to New Orleans.
Hours later, we all went back to square one.
An ESPN mobile headline appeared at about 2:30 in the morning. For 35 minutes, underneath the photo of Lin, were words that employed perhaps the worst racial slur imaginable for a person who identifies as Taiwanese American.
Linsanity, leveled by Linsensitivity – just like that.
Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president of editorial, print and digital media, cringed like most people when he was informed. The son of Post columnist Colbert I. King, born and reared in the District, he has been one of the more proactive voices in the industry against the exact kind of headline an editor typed into a keyboard in the wee hours of the morning Friday.
“The minute everybody starts patting ourselves on the back over reaching some kind of conclusion on the issue of race, something like this happens and makes us realize how far we have to go,” he said in a telephone interview early Saturday morning. “All we can do for now is continue to preach vigilance.”
The real blessing in disguise of Jeremy Lin schooling the NBA: It isn’t merely the notion that undrafted Harvard graduates can overcome obvious profiling by general managers and scouts over what colleges prospective point guards should play for and what they should look like.
No, it’s that maybe now that there is a bona fide American Asian star to make us see the overlooked and often covert racism less-famous people of his ethnicity have forever faced in sports and beyond.
“We’re more sensitive to black history in this society,” says Guy Aoki, head and co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans. He explained it further:
Because reporters “don’t want anyone to think they condone the word’s use, they came up with the ‘N-word,’ ” Aoki said by telephone from Los Angeles. “There’s no such thing as the C-word . . . is there?”
When the Madison Square Garden Network flashed a graphic of Lin sticking his tongue out, superimposed in the middle of a fortune cookie, Aoki wondered aloud: “Imagine if 80 percent of the league were Asian American. And a black player’s face was put in the middle of fried chicken and watermelon. How would that go over? Look, I get it; the sports world is not used to dealing with Asian stars, and in that regard maybe this will open some eyes.”