Jeremy Lin rides the pine while his race takes centre court
Wiping the sweat from his brow, Jeremy Lin slides forward in his seat, staring intently from the sideline as Game 5 between the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat takes off.
A sea of blue and orange, the Knicks bench is at full capacity.
But one player sticks out from the crowd, and it is not because of his grey business suit.
The six-foot-three, 200-pound point guard, born in Los Angeles, California to Taiwanese parents, is always passionate about playing basketball.
The 23-year-old’s story is ripped right out of the headlines.
A Harvard economics and sociology graduate, Lin is the ultimate underdog.
Initially, Lin was not drafted by any NBA team.
He got his break with the Golden State Warriors and was traded to the Houston Rockets before he secured a sport with the New York Knicks.
Ironically, the Knicks put him on the court out of desperation.
With three straight 20-point games, his talent is hard to deny.
Knicks fans all over the world are cheering on the breakout star with signs: “Loving Lin Long Time,” “The Knicks Good Fortune,” and “Domo arigato, Mr. Lin-boto.”
But have the puns gone too far?
There is a clear line between a racial slur and a clever play on words.
Sports anchors, however, have joined in on the running jokes about Lin and his Asian-American background.
Last February, ESPN released a highly offensive headline describing Lin as, “a chink in the armour,” after the Knicks suffered a loss.
Days later, ESPN fired the headline writer who came up with the phrase and suspended the anchor who mentioned it on air.
The New York Post featured a headline on the front page that read, “AMASIAN!”
Two news anchors on Fox 5 discussed the physical attributes that make Lin a star point guard.
News anchor, Greg Kelly, then posed the question, “What about his eyes?” to which the other news anchor, Jill Nicolini, began to laugh hysterically.
On February 13, 2012, notoriously outspoken boxer Floyd Mayweather tweeted, “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian.”
Mayweather then added that African-American players with the same abilities as Lin do not receive similar praise.
Fox Sports columnist, Jason Whitlock, tweeted, “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight,” after the Knicks lost a game to the Lakers
A few days after the incident, Whitlock issued a public apology.
Among all these comments, race appears to be a most contributing factor to Lin’s athletic professionalism.
Lin’s performances take a backseat to his Asian ethnicity, as many news stories featuring Lin highlight his race in some manner.
The empirical fact that he scores an average of 20 points per game is backgrounded in many of the stories news media purvey.
In an interview with the Herald Sun, Lin acknowledges the stereotypes against Asians in the NBA.
He explains that, “Hopefully in the near future, we will see a lot more Asian-Amerians playing in the NBA.”
Conversely, it would be unfair to say that race hasn’t played a part in Lin’s rising basketball stardom.
He has nudged open the door for other Asian Americans who also want to play in the NBA.
Lin has even helped the Knicks regain their “cool” factor. And they wasted no time capitalizing on all the hype.
“Lin-sanity” was a smart marketing ploy on the Knicks’ behalf.
From t-shirts, hats, and even Ben & Jerry’s Taste the Lin-sanity ice cream flavour, these marketing tactics brought in a lot of revenue for the team.
However, the majority of the “Lin-sanity” merchandise is racist.
Images of Lin dressed as a ninja and Goku in Dragon Ball Z are just a few of the racially driven jokes about Lin.
There is a hypocrisy that exists in the NBA: calling Jeremy Lin a fortune cookie is apparently hilarious and acceptable, but making jokes about Kobe Bryant’s inability to remain faithfully monogamous is unacceptable.
The bottom line is that Lin’s ability to perform on the court is not in any way related to his race.
And the “Lin-sanity” puns are becoming a form of racial insanity that ignore the fundamental purpose of basketball, or any other sport for that matter: athleticism.
The next time Lin steps onto the court, let us keep his ethnicity out of the picture and focus on what promises to be an amazing comeback.