The sudden emergence of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin as the first-ever Asian-American (as opposed to Asian) NBA super-star has given lots of people in the American sports world the opportunity to trip over themselves by making racially insensitive remarks.
First ESPN writer Anthony Federico was (justifiably IMO) fired for composing this genius headline: "Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin's 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets." Then MMA Live host Max Bretos (this is our MMA tie-in if you're wondering) caught a 30-day suspension for using the phrase in an interview with Knicks great Walt Frazier (video after the jump).
Bretos' ESPN colleague Michael Kim took to Twitter to defend Bretos:
"There are thousands of fine, outstanding people at ESPN who I am proud to call colleagues, including Max Bretos. I truly believe it was an unfortunate use of words but I KNOW there was no malice there. That came on live TV. But there's a different thought process involved with scripts/copy and headlines. Am I disappointed this happened at ESPN? Yes. But...There is no finer place to work. It is a company that has made diversity in its workforce a priority. I am confident we'll be better because of this in the future. . . . Now if you'll excuse me, my son and I are going to enjoy rooting for the NBA role model I never had. #Linsanity."
Of course this made me think of boxing where Floyd Mayweather inserted himself into the discussion to bag on the hype around Lin:
Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he's Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise.
And that's short beer compared to the bravura insensitivity displayed by boxing promoter Don King and Mexican-American heavyweight Chris Arreola. Full transcript of that dialog after the jump:
"We even brought in a Mexican-American to give him a chance to get out and be at the front of the forefront. No more wetbacks running up and down picking the fruits and things. Now, we're rolling, you know what I mean," King said, drawing more than a few gasps from the assembled media and supporters of the Sweet Science. "That's what makes this country so great, you know what I mean? Yesterday's nobody is tomorrow's somebody. So I'm very thrilled and I'm humbly honored to be in Corpus Christi. Texas, hear my cry. V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. Victory is ours."
Arreola, who expressed the requisite amount of respect toward Molina, heard King's cry but wasn't in a celebratory mood.
"I do take offense on that wetback thing because both of my parents are wetbacks and I'm proud of being a wetback myself. I am honored to be Mexican, 100 percent," said Arreola, who is scheduled to meet Molina in a 10-rounder. "So if you don't take offense by him saying wetback, I sure do. And this wetback right here, it's going to be a great, great honor to shut your mouth Saturday night. When we get to this arena we're going to put on a great show for these people."
King later tried to clarify the remark, saying, "Chris you may have gotten the wrong intent . . . because we're all wetbacks, baby."
It just goes to show any discussion of race in America remains a tiptoe through a minefield. We've got everything from genuine bad actors like Federico to those like Bezos who just step in it inadvertently, then there's Mayweather and Don King in a league of their own.