This was the ESPN headline that has caused controversy, resulting in the removal of the headline and dismissal of the employee responsible:
At ESPN we are aware of three offensive and inappropriate comments made on ESPN outlets during our coverage of Jeremy Lin.
Saturday we apologized for two references here. We have since learned of a similar reference Friday on ESPN Radio New York. The incidents were separate and different. We have engaged in a thorough review of all three and have taken the following action:
The ESPN employee responsible for our Mobile headline has been dismissed.
The ESPNEWS anchor has been suspended for 30 days.
The radio commentator is not an ESPN employee.
We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN. Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future.
Personally? I think that’s a rather clever line and as far as I can gather, there was no racist intent to demean Jeremy Lin. Max Bretos, the anchor who has been suspended for 30 days, tweeted the following:
Wanted 2 apologize 2 all those I have upset. Not done with any racial reference. Despite intention, phrase was inappropriate in this context.
My wife is Asian, would never intentionally say anything to disrespect her and that community.
Wanted to thank all those for their support. Has meant a lot to me and my family.
Worthy of blogs and conversation amongst friends (and apparently acceptable if you are doing comedy) but probably not very wise to print/say in the ultra-pc environment that is the mainstream media, populated by the perpetually offended & outraged and hypersensitive among us.
Despite the controversial nature of using this phrase to describe this player, the most socially damaging things ESPN could have done were issue a public apology and reprimand its employees.
Imagine a young Knicks fan who loves Lin and sees ESPN apologize for using “chink in the armor.” He then asks: “Dad, what does chink in the armor mean?”
Dad answers saying that it’s a phrase used for when someone has only one weakness. Then the young fan asks why it’s bad to say, and dad is forced to explain to him the derogatory use of the word “chink.” Thus, a meaningless racial slur is preserved because of the hyper-sensitive political correctness of modern media.
By acknowledging this gaffe to such a degree, ESPN increased the social damage exponentially. The headline was only up for 30 minutes and the phrase was only uttered twice out loud: once on TV and once on an ESPN radio broadcast by a non-ESPN employee.
The ESPN.com statement issued stated, “we are aware of three offensive and inappropriate comments made.”
In a certain context, the word chink can be offensive, but the “armor” idiom is used so frequently in sports journalism that it should take precedence. Instead, ESPN wrongly deemed the statements “offensive and inappropriate” and further perpetuated the perceived racism.
From a public relations standpoint, the response from ESPN was a no-brainer. Yet, we ought to care more about the public’s continuing recognition of fake words created by hate-mongers. By ignoring pre-existing definitions and acknowledging ridiculous slurs in an effort to not be considered racist, the media does the exact opposite.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities.” Media outlets deciding that, because Lin is Asian, he therefore does not have the capacity to be described using a commonly used phrase is the real racism.
The overreaction the comments spurred outweighs the severity of the comments themselves. Ridiculous concepts like racial slurs will never go away with this attitude. ESPN should have stood firm behind its employees who, most likely, had no bad intentions.
In a case like this, the racism exists nowhere but in our own minds.
Apparently the ESPN editor who was fired, Anthony Federico, wrote the phrase without even thinking of the connection between “chink” and Lin’s ethnicity. I’m willing to give Federico the benefit of the doubt (as does Lin); but even if there was a pun intended, I find it more clever than offensive.
Bruce Maiman offers a bit of history on usage of the word “chink”:
The phrase, ‘chink in the armor’ is some 600 years old. The word ‘chink’ meant ‘slit’ or ‘narrow opening’ –a weak spot– and dates back to circa 1350-1400. Six-hundred years ago, soldiers wore armor. If the armor had a narrow opening in it, it was a weak spot which enemies tried to take advantage of.
It’s first usage as a racial slur occurred somewhere around 1900-1905, or earlier. The narrow opening of Asian American eyes seems to be one derivative. Others suggest that it derived from the sound of working on the railroad, when metal of a hammer hitting the rail gave off a “chink” sound. The labor of Chinese immigrants was instrumental in the building of railway lines and the nation’s expansion westward. It was around this time that Chinese immigration was perceived as a threat to the American way of life, which triggered a wave of anti-Asian xenophobia.
People need to just relax.