Both ESPN employees punished for using a racial slur in reference to Jeremy Lin have stated that they meant no offense and did not use the word to deliberately denigrate the New York Knicks point guard.
Anthony Federico, an ESPN editor, posted the headline “Chink in the Armor” late Friday night after the streaking Knicks fell to the New Orleans Hornets. ESPN fired Federico on Sunday after the headline angered civil rights groups and garnered national media attention.
Federico has since told the New York Daily News that “he has used the phrase ‘at least 100 times’ in headlines over the years and thought nothing of it when he slapped it on the Lin story.”
He said he understood why the Bristol, Conn.-based sports empire took the action that it did, and lamented what happened given that he and Lin share an outspoken approach to their Christian faith.
ESPN also suspended anchor Max Bretos for 30 days after he used the same phrase on air Wednesday while speaking with Knicks legend Walt Frazier. Bretos apologized on Twitter Saturday, posting, "Wanted 2 apologize 2 all those I have upset. Not done with any racial reference. Despite intention, phrase was inappropriate in this context."
He followed that up with, "My wife is Asian, would never intentionally say anything to disrespect her and that community."
Watching the clip, it would appear Bretos just made a poor choice of phrase and that the media may have been too quick to condemn that remark.
However, Lin’s Chinese heritage, combined with his Harvard pedigree and his New York platform, have both expedited his ascent to media stardom and raised new questions about racism in professional sports.
The NBA has sought to build the league into a global brand, developing a major following in areas such as Europe and China, but players of Asian descent still make up a very small minority.
Everyone from ESPN’s Rick Reilly to the New York Times’ David Carr has touched on the issue of race with respect to Lin, who seems unaffected by the media frenzy. He led the Knicks to yet another victory on Sunday, this time over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.