Fired ESPN Headline Writer Tries To Make "Nice"

Anthony Federico, fired by ESPN for his use of the idiom "chink in the armor" for a headline of a story involving Jeremy Lin, claims he used the phrase "100 times" during his career. Perhaps it would be a good idea for him to stop four years ago, when it was linked to an ESPN website story about the Beijing Olympics.

Over the weekend, I’ve been writing extensively about the uses and utterances of the term “chink in the armor” with regards to Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, the first American basketball player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. So far, we have an unofficial count of four (all recapped in the original post on Saturday) within a one-week period. But it was the use of this phrase as the headline of a story about how the Knicks lost their first game in the “Linsanity” era, which was marred by nine Lin turnovers, on ESPN’s mobile platform that cost one person his five-year career at the worldwide Leader.

And today, that man, Anthony Federico, broke his silence with the New York Daily News.

“ESPN did what they had to do,” he said of the sports behemoth’s decision to can him on Sunday, one day after he unknowingly single-handedly caused a sports media ruckus. “I’m devastated that I caused a firestorm.”

Note I used the word “unknowingly” – Federico admitted that he used the phrase “chink in the armor” some “100 times” during his tenure as content editor at ESPN.

Yet the one time – the first time, in fact – there arose a situation in which an extremely popular basketball player of Chinese descent costs his team a game, this now-former content editor decided not to edit himself.

You see, if you use a word or phrase that may have an ambiguous dark side, over and over again, it’s like second nature – you don’t realize which situation you’re dealing with when you apply it.

Such was the case at 2:30 AM on Saturday morning – which would eventually be Federico’s final shift at ESPN.

“This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny,” Federico pleads. “I’m so sorry that I offended people. I’m so sorry if I offended Jeremy… I’d love to tell Jeremy what happened and explain that this was an honest mistake.”

Predictably, there are counterpoints on the Internets arguing why ESPN was wrong to fire Federico. Indeed, he has had a storied career behind the scenes at ESPN, in their mobile confines, editing content, and on the side, hosting “SportsNation” live chats during sports events. Note during one chat, he responded to a member of “SportsNation” with “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But remember – it’s not about being cute or punny.

Earlier this month, he authored a piece for ESPN’s female-oriented “ESPNW” website on something called the “Responsible Sexuality And Soccer” program in Haiti.

And as it turns out, that’s just one sample of his writing talents. Upon doing some research, I found out that Federico also wrote a fictional book about college life, titled – ready for this? – “Must Be Nice.” It’s ironic because when you’re looking to find more information on a person who went with the “chink in the armor” headline for Jeremy Lin, the first thing you find out about him is that he’s the author of a book called “Must Be Nice.”

According to the book’s website, one account depicts its “sense of humor that makes it impossible to put the book down.”

Could it be that same reasoning for Federico, author of said book with a “sense of humor that makes it impossible to put the book down”, to slap on the old “chink in the armor” sentence an admitted “100 times” in his five-plus years at ESPN, so that it could give the reader a story they would not want to click away from?

And another thing: Wouldn’t it have been a good idea for Federico to stop using that phrase in his content since, say, 2008, when the main ESPN website showed that same headline attached to a story about the USA Basketball team at the Olympics – in Beijing, China? Clearly, he was an ESPN employee at the time. You’d think there would be a company-wide memo advising everyone, from Skip Bayless to the intern scouring the Internet making sure there are no new videos of that Erin Andrews “peephole” video out there, that they should use extreme judgment when saying or writing anything on any of the network’s platforms.

Or maybe Federico was busy writing his book – it was published in 2009.

But he wants everyone to know that, despite the “armor” kerfuffle, he has nothing but respect for Jeremy Lin, as he tells the Daily News that, like Lin, he is an “outspoken Christian.”

“My faith is my life.”

Indeed, if you take a look at his Twitter page, his tweets are scattered with religious thoughts. In fact, hours after his Daily News piece was published, he tweeted: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Hopefully, Anthony Federico will land on his feet at another organization. And hopefully, he’s learned a thing or two from this lost weekend that landed him on the unemployment line, er, Lin, to begin with. You can bet he’s determined. As he tweeted about two years ago:

“I’ll never let up. I’m in the business of winning and business is good.”

Sadly, business is on a brief Lin-terruption.

Keep the faith, A-Fed.

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