Yellow Journalism: ESPN Goes All-Lin With The Race Card

ESPN used the headline "Chink In The Armor" on their website after the Knicks suffer their first loss in the Jeremy Lin era on Friday night, in a game in which Lin had a career-high nine turnovers. Interestingly, an ESPN anchor actually used the same term on television after the Knicks' last win.

This is Linsanity.

You thought things were crazy enough that various media had bent over backwards trying to work in a “Lin” pun with words starting with “in” when discussing Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.

This, however, is just plain Lignorance. (Okay, it doesn’t quite work with “ig” words.)

Twice within a 48-hour period, ESPN has worked in the phrase “chink in the armor” during Knicks pieces on two of its biggest platforms. And they apparently seem so fond of the idiom, that it appears an ESPN Radio anchor on their “SportsCenter Saturday” program used the same term last Saturday afternoon – making it three times on three of their biggest platforms within a week. And mind you, that usage of the phrase was in the middle of the Knicks’ seven-game winning streak, and right after their win over the Lakers, in a game in which Lin scored a career-high 38 points.

Sometime after the Knicks’ seventh straight win on Wednesday night, an ESPN anchor identified as Max Bretos decided to ask Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier: “If there is a chink in the armor, where can he improve his game?”

This went under the radar for reasons unknown. Is it because the Knicks were enjoying a winning streak? Were they (and MSG) too busy basking in “Linsanity” that they just brushed off the use of such terms?

And could this be why MSG was so “Lin-different” upon a sign created by a fan attending the Knicks game Wednesday night depicting Lin as “the Knicks’ good fortune” entering its own house, let alone making its own television network? (And you don’t want to know what other signs Conan O’Brien has unearthed!)

Sadly, the Knicks’ seven-game winning streak would come to an end on Friday night. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the saddest thing to arise from the Knicks’ 89-85 loss to the New Orleans Hornets at the Garden.

Huge hat tip to Larry Brown Sports for first noticing this. Early Saturday morning, visitors to ESPN’s website – or at least the mobile version – were greeted to this headline for their Knicks/Hornets game recap: “Chink In The Armor.”

It’s as if ESPN quietly hired Jason Whitlock back.

At what point is the Asian American Journalists Association going to develop a watchdog group to monitor all forms of sports media writing stories and recording reports about the NBA’s newest sensation, who happens to be of Taiwanese-American descent?

It shouldn’t have to be that way.

Sadly, some people just let bad judgment get the best of them.

I can see whoever developed the Jeremy Lin “good fortune” sign getting a free pass since it doesn’t include a blatantly derogatory Asian slur. But there is no excuse for the suddenly growing “Lin-appropriate” train, which left the station once a tweet left Jason Whitlock’s fingers last Friday night. Conan O’Brien, in breaking out Asian stereotypes (good at math, bad at driving, and having a mundane presence at cleaners) is just encouraging this “Lin-appropriacy” – but then again, it’s a comedy bit, and this is what Conan does, so he probably won’t receive a lot of flak for it.

But ESPN finding ways to work in the phrase “chink in the armor” after a Knicks loss and a Knicks win, let alone twice during a winning streak? That’s reprehensible.

Sure, there was no shortage of your garden variety “Lin” puns on ESPN’s website in the wake of the Knicks’ home loss to the Hornets: An Associated Press article that appears on ESPN’s website starts right off with the sentence: “Can’t Lin ’em all.” A chart in the middle of the article chronicling Lin’s turnovers during his recent games carries the headline, “Not Lin-vincible.”

Even Ian Begley’s own recap for bears the headline, “Linferior first quarter dooms Knicks.” And a video accompanying this column is titled, “No Win For Lin.” (It is the first loss for Jeremy Lin in his first eight starts.)

But if you look at the “Chink In The Armor” headline once again, you’ll see that Begley’s name is right underneath that unfortunate sentence – which, as Larry Brown Sports reports, has since been removed after appearing for ‘at least 10-15 minutes”. It was changed to the far less sterner, “All Good Things…” Wow, you mean there was a golden opportunity to turn another word with “in” in it into another “Lin” pun, and they passed on it?

Of course, given the first loss in the Lin era was to the Hornets, I would have preferred, “Hornets Stling Knicks.” Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, I know.

To ESPN’s credit, they issued an immediate apology for their unfortunate headline: “Regarding a Feb. 18 headline on its mobile website, ESPN issued the following statement: “Last night,’s mobile website posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 a.m. ET. The headline was removed at 3:05 a.m. 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.”

But clearly, an apology is not good enough at this point. Certainly, the use of “chink in the armor” after the Knicks’ loss on Friday night is going to cost somebody their job.

At first, one would suspect it was the author of the article itself, Ian Begley. Another account found online seems to suggest that it was Begley who suggested, and went with, the “Chink” headline.

And replies to Begley’s own tweet promoting the article seem to imply the “Chink” headline was his idea. “I guess your articles will never go on the front anymore after such derogatory language,” read one Twitter reply, while another tweet to Begley says it all: “Saw your article on the front page of…. Lincredible!”

Meanwhile, people commenting on Begley’s story aren’t having any of it. Such as “charles.jhl” who writes: “$@%! that espn writer with the title “$@%!$ in the armor”! Racist mother $@%!$@”

[Update: Eventually, ESPN fired the writer of the headline, content editor Anthony Federico, a five-year employee with the company.]

The aforementioned AAJA is on notice: “So, ESPN, “Chink in the armor”? We expect better. And AAJA MediaWatch will be issuing a statement soon.”

But wait, there’s more: I have just discovered yet a third time the Worldwide Leader went to the “chink in the armor” well – on ESPN Radio. A Twitter user last Saturday afternoon wrote: “ESPN radio announcer was just talking about Jeremy Lin’s shortcomings and said “chink in the armor.” Really? Are you kidding me?” I cannot confirm who was on the air on Saturday, February 11 in the 5 PM (ET) hour on ESPN Radio, and it looks like ESPN doesn’t even keep a roster of their weekend talent on their website. I’ve asked the composer of that tweet for some additional information.

And the phrase had actually once been used by ESPN long before Linsanity broke loose. Larry Brown Sports’ Steve DelVecchio reminds us of ESPN opting to use the question-imposing headline, “Chink In The Armor?” for a story about Team USA’s 101-81 victory over Team Argentina at the 2008 Olympics – in Beijing, China.

The bottom Lin, er, line here is that with three uses of the term “chink in the armor” regarding Jeremy Lin, something’s got to give. This whole display of disrespect in the sports media upon Jeremy Lin’s surge has been, quite frankly, appal-Lin.

UPDATE: On Saturday afternoon, ESPN issued an apology, not for the use of the term “chink in the armor” on their website, but for the use of the term by Max Bretos on ESPN’s air on Wednesday night.

Also, ESPN personality Stuart Scott commented on the usage of the term across its platforms over the last few days: “Saw ‘chink [self-edit] in the armor’ comment. Anchor didn’t realize [what] he said and headline unintentional poor words. STILL wrong and warrants apology.”

12 comments on “Yellow Journalism: ESPN Goes All-Lin With The Race Card

  1. Emma says:

    I guess someone will be beg-leyng for his job back soon.

  2. get these nets says:

    good article.

    I didn’t expect the AAJA to do anything, and surely not to act as swiftly towards espn as they towards Whitlock.

  3. Kenny says:

    For all who thinks it is not racist, it is absolutely racist! The Knicks have never been known to have any armor defense or offense, so why single out Lin as if he is the only hole in the Knicks’ defense or offense?! Remember, there were over twenty turnovers by the Knicks against the Hornets. And, what a lame apology!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Racial slurs of any kind are unacceptable but please note that Mr. Begley did NOT write that headline.!/notes/gary-reloj/need-your-help-jeremy-lin-chink-in-the-armor-article/10150605363952114

  5. Mike says:

    The sad thing is that Ian Begley did not make the article title. It is usually an ESPN staffer that makes the article headline once its written and posts it. I do hope the right person is held accountable.

    • HilaryK says:

      Thank you Mike! Let’s help clear Ian’s name. It was most certainly the editor and not him. Look forward to many more articulate articles from Ian Begley. He’s a great sports reporter.

  6. Tim says:

    Has anyone seen videos Jeremy Lin did where he referenced himself as “chink88”? I may have been wrong, but could swear I saw videos on a site, but didn’t confirm it was Jeremy Lin making them. I don’t have a problem with him doing it, but kind of muddies the water when other people say it and get fired/suspended. They shouldn’t have said it and I don’t condone it, just find it interesting.

  7. Zippie says:

    I’m thinking Begley was reading a teleprompter, which, if true, means that this was endorsed by the network. The fact of the matter is that this is the same bunch of stooges who ran Mike Lynch out of Lubbock. Common pond scum, if you ask me.

  8. Lucas says:

    If he didn’t write the title why was he the one that was fired? Just because someone wrote that it wasn’t him doesn’t mean it was correct, and obviously was incorrect.

  9. RaiderRich2001 says:

    Isn’t it Dari Nowkah on that Saturday shift in question?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s