“Something is changing in this generation of Asian Americans. We are tired of being told that we don’t experience racism, we are tired of being told to keep our heads down and not make trouble,” Lin, who plays for the NBA G League’s Santa Cruz Warriors, wrote in an Instagram post Thursday. “We are tired of being invisible, of being mistaken for our colleague or told our struggles aren’t as real.”
Lin, who was born in California to Taiwanese parents, played in the NBA for nine years and became the first Asian American player to win an NBA championship when the Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. But he said that experience has not protected him from being called “coronavirus” on the court.
Such an incident fits into a broader surge of anti-Asian slurs and violence, which advocates anticipated would be amplified by former president Donald Trump’s anti-China rhetoric over the coronavirus pandemic.
Stop AAPI Hate, a group that tracks incidents of violence, harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, reported more than 2,800 incidents from March through December 2020.
Those incidents include a Korean man who was chased out of a convenience store restroom in California and a 67-year-old in New York who was spit on. An 84-year-old man from Thailand died as a result of injuries he suffered after an attack in San Francisco last month.
Some law enforcement agencies have reported an increase in bias attacks against Asian Americans, including New York City’s hate crime task force, which investigated three such incidents in 2019 but saw a ninefold increase last year. Fears, anxieties and anger about those episodes have produced patrol groups in California and New York to combat that harassment.
Lin told NBC Sports Bay Area this week that he is “angry and heartbroken” about these incidents, and he discussed what they have engendered in him.
“The first one is just this emotion of like: ‘Are you kidding me? Who does this, or why would you do this?’ And there’s an anger and a confusion and a frustration,” Lin said. “But as I take more time … after a while I feel bad. I feel bad for somebody who harbors hate for somebody else who they’ve never met just based on skin color or I don’t even know, so that makes me want to do something.”
Lin is 11th in G League scoring, averaging 19.6 points in five games. He has twice played in China and for eight teams throughout his NBA career, highlighted by a stint with the Knicks during which he captivated the league. A three-time All-Ivy League selection at Harvard, Lin recounted the discrimination he has faced during his playing career on the Debrief podcast earlier this week.
“Growing up I only really experienced the overt racism like: ‘Oh, you’re a Chinese import. Oh, your eyes are so whatever,’ ” Lin said. “A lot of people [in the stands] are drunk but to see the violence on their face and their eyes are red … and they’re just like, ‘The orchestra’s on the other side of campus,’ or, ‘Can you even see the scoreboard with those eyes?’ or, ‘Go back to China.’
“I’m playing in places that also have Asians in those same student sections. It was a little mind-boggling at the time, but I learned a lot from it.”
Lin said he experienced “less of that” in the NBA, although he hopes coaches and scouts stop describing players of Asian descent as “deceptively” athletic. The league, for its part, released a statement against anti-Asian violence Tuesday.
The G League is opening an investigation into Lin’s statement that he has been called “coronavirus” on a G League court, the Athletic reported Friday.
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, whose team is the NBA affiliate of Lin’s G League squad, voiced support for Lin and the investigation earlier Friday.
“I applaud Jeremy for his words and echo his sentiments regarding racism against the Asian American community. It’s just so ridiculous and obviously spawned by many people, including our former president, as it relates to the coronavirus originating in China,” Kerr said.
On whether he would like to see an investigation, Kerr said: “Oh, yeah. For sure, for sure. As I said, I saw the post, the reference was a little bit vague, so I think it’d be good to know what happened.”
Lin on Saturday took to social media again, to respond to the reaction his statements stirred.
He also spoke about his relationship with Howard men’s basketball coach Kenny Blakeney, who was an assistant coach at Harvard during Lin’s time there. He said Blakeney talked him through the racism he experienced and was the first to say he had NBA potential as a sophomore.
“I know this will disappoint some of you but I’m not naming or shaming anyone. What good does it do in this situation for someone to be torn down? It doesn’t make my community safer or solve any of our long-term problems with racism,” Lin said in a tweet.
“Instead, if you want to truly help, look for the Asian kid that has no one to speak up for him when he’s bullied. Look for the Asian American groups that are experiencing poverty but get overlooked. Support the Asian American movie or TV show that gives real opportunity to tell different stories. Look for Asian people that are scared to walk around their neighborhood and ask how you can help them.”