Mobile visitors to ESPN.com tonight found themselves with a bit of an odd headline and picture as seen below from this photo nabbed by Myles Brown. Myles, you need to charge your phone buddy!
The reactions for this have been all over the place. Lots of outrage, some people thinking it's funny, others thinking it's racist, and some just not knowing what to think.
The odd thing is that if you do a twitter search for "Chink In The Armor" apparently various television and radio personalities have used this saying regarding Lin besides the headline above and even before his nine turnover game today (still a good scoring game for him personally).
But that's small potatoes compared to the largest individual sports website in the world and their main story, sure to be seen a large five figure audience.
I am a bit torn here. The radio guys and random television guys who are saying this are likely doing so knowing the wink wink racism double meaning of utilizing it in regards to Lin. If confronted, they have the recourse of saying, "That's not how I meant to use it. It was kind of dumb and I just wasn't thinking being live on the air. I apologize for anyone I offended." For instance below, it's hard to condemn this usage of the saying below.
But my thought here, and I understand it's just my opinion, is that this is pretty inexcusable given that ESPN.com is a huge platform with a lot of built in processes, people involved, and higher standards.
The usage of this very common saying is not racist itself if you just go with its surface meaning.
However, the worst racial slur you could call someone of Chinese or Asian descent would be "chink" and while it has dual definitions unlike most other slurs, it's just all too convenient that it shows up here. At face value, the headline certainly makes sense. But the dual definition of that word essentially ensures that if published, their would be a shit storm. Now there is.
So either way you look at it, it's wrong and it reminds me of a famous scene in Casino when Robert De Niro defends the firing of one his casino managers after he failed to realize that slot machines were rigged for big payouts that occurred multiple times before he thought anything of it.
De Niro says, "Look, he was either in on it, or he was too dumb to recognize it. Either way, I can't have him working for me."
We don't know how this headline made it to the live mobile site and just who had their hands on it. Obviously they'll have to explain to the higher ups what happened, but I doubt they can really get out of this with no punishment at all and perhaps their jobs.
I totally see the flip side, where "you're reading into this too much" or "you're being too sensitive" and "god you can't say anything these days." Trust me, all of this rings true to me and I'm half Asian.
Regardless, ESPN doesn't need this kind of press and heat on them. There is only really one word and saying in a headlne that needed to be put "off-limits" and given the very first opportunity to crack on Lin's game, ESPN went to it right away and that's just unacceptable and I think they know it. I am guessing we'll have a statement early tomorrow.
I hate having blogged so much about Lin this week. It's a great story and yet we're here blogging about a lot of media stuff that is unfortunate about his unexpected rise from obscurity. That said, I think it's justified. Jason Whitlock shouldn't make fun of Asian penis sizes and the word "chink" shouldn't be utilized in regards to Lin and other Asians by the mainstream media.
That's really it. I am not looking for any media affirmative action or that everyone just kiss Lin's ass because he is Asian. Just don't be racist or open the door for people to question if you're being racist by being cute. Just cover the story without these manufactured distractions.
What are your thoughts here on the appropriate punishment and reaction by ESPN if any? Do you believe it was intentional or people just being careless/too dumb? Does it matter?
Ed Note: ESPN did indeed release a statement early Saturday morning profusely apologizing for the headline. The statement reads in full:
"Last night, ESPN.com's mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET. The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET. We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake."
ESPN.com Editor in Chief Rob King also took to Twitter to apologize, saying this with a link to the statement:
"There's no defense for the indefensible. All we can offer are our apologies, sincere though incalculably inadequate."
ESPN certainly recognizes the gravity of the mistake and took the necessary steps to show contrition, but the question still needs to be answered how in the world THAT headline was published.