By Arturo R. García
Give Saturday Night Live credit. It didn’t do too badly with its first Jeremy Lin sketch. Others, of course, didn’t do so well. And we’re not just talking about ESPN.
While ESPN.com’s infamous “Chink In The Armor” headline drew the most attention, it was only one of the network’s mistakes over the course of the past week. Last Wednesday night, anchor Max Bretos used the same phrase in asking a guest what Lin could do to improve his game. (Lin, by the way, scored 28 points and had 14 assists in leading New York to a win Sunday. His game seems to be doing just fine.) And both of these incidents ocurred days after an unidentified ESPN Radio commentator did the same thing. That’s an impressive amount of cross-platform cognitive dissonance.
Sunday, ESPN released a statement that left behind more questions than answers: Bretos had been suspended for 30 days, and the person responsible for the online headline was fired.
But the radio person? Not a company employee, the statement said. Which means, what? Is the network’s position “Whatevs”? And will it continue to work with this commentator? Moreover, as some people on the statement’s comment thread have pointed out, why was the person who put the headline up fired without any statement regarding the editor or editors–because even a graveyard-shift network news crew would have at least one editor on duty, right?–who approved it for publication?
A column at MediaRantz.com (one with a questionable title itself, mind you) places the onus for the web headline on writer Ian Begley:
But clearly, an apology is not good enough at this point. Certainly, the use of “chink in the armor” after the Knicks’ loss on Friday night is going to cost somebody their job. Another account found online seems to suggest that it was Begley who suggested, and went with, the “Chink” headline.
And replies to Begley’s own tweet promoting the article seem to imply the “Chink” headline was his idea. “I guess your articles will never go on the front anymore after such derogatory language,” read one Twitter reply, while another tweet to Begley says it all: “Saw your article on the front page of ESPN.com….Lincredible!”
Or does ESPN have a webmaster who works independently and made that decision?
Meanwhile, people commenting on Begley’s story aren’t having any of it. Such as “charles.jhl” who writes: “$@%! that espn writer with the title “$@%!$ in the armor”! Racist mother $@%!$@”
And as Deadspin’s Timothy Burke reported, the disrespect toward Lin wasn’t confined to the network’s English-language properties. Check out this graphic used on ESPNDeportes, referencing the “Lin Empire”:
Meanwhile, Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger seemed to want to play it both ways during a CNN appearance talking about the press’ treatment of Lin. While he acknowledged that “chink in the armor” was an offensive phrase, he then said “other stuff” like an MSG Network graphic depicting Lin inside a fortune cookie was “not that big a deal.”
“The fortune cookie thing didn’t bother me,” he told CNN’s Harold Kurtz. “I don’t think it rises to the level of calling him a gook or a kike. People are having fun with it.” Kurtz did not follow up on that statement.
And just wait ’til some apologist/derailer gets ahold of Lin’s Xanga profile from his high-school days: Oh, it’s okay if he uses the word, yadda yadda yadda … Or maybe they used it as part of their entry into the contest hosted by the Nick and Artie Show, a DirecTV property, where listeners were invited to offer their most racist joke against Asian-Americans.
At least Sunday brought with it something positive: Lin’s first double-livetweet game, as the #ImAllLin and #ourchinatown hashtags followed his exploits against Dallas. Best buckle up, though: the more exposure Lin and the Knicks get the rest of this year, the more inanities we as readers and consumers are going to have to speak up against.