With professional athletes all over the world, sports can sometimes stop being about competition and can cross over into issues of race.
There have been incidents involving alleged racial slurs from fans and athletes to other fans and athletes and even commentators haven’t been immune from the crossing of racial lines.
An Asian American basketball point guard by the name of Jeremy Lin has been playing well for National Basketball Association’s New York Knicks and as a result, the team has been playing well too.
The team recently saw a win streak snapped with Lin playing a less-than-stellar game and some sports media used an oft-used phrase referring to gaps in armour – Google Jeremy Lin, racist headline and ESPN if you don’t know the phrase.
While the phrase has been used by many, it can cross racial lines if taken out of context.
The phrase appeared on ESPN’s mobile website as a headline and was used by an anchor on air – both have been disciplined with the headline writer being dismissed and the anchor being suspended for 30 days.
Race, racial issues and racism can be incredibly complex topics but people can sometimes blow things out of proportion.
People, wrongly in my opinion, made race an issue of a football game promo in 2004 involving an African American player Terrell Owens and actress Nicollette Sheridan of the TV show Desperate Housewives, where Sheridan was seen seducing the football player.
It may have crossed the lines of decency, as it was shown in prime time when children could’ve viewed it, but some media saw an opportunity to make it about inter-racial relationships between African American males and a Caucasian women.
Don Cherry has made an issue of Europeans, Francophone hockey players and while he has been known to cross the line at times, it probably is more shtick than anything.
As for the situation involving Jeremy Lin, I don’t think that the ESPN people were being racist – it is a common phrase after all.
No doubt there are racist people who have and will use that phrase against Lin and it is wrong if used maliciously but by all accounts, the two ESPN employees can only be accused of erring in common sense.
However, the bottom line remains the same. If you use racial slurs with the intention to offend and to promote hate, you’re in the wrong.