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ESPN wrong to apologize for ‘chink in the armor’

Published: Monday, February 20, 2012

Updated: Friday, February 24, 2012 15:02

Jeremy Lin, who was born in the U.S. and is of Taiwanese heritage, is off to one of the best starts in NBA history. But much of the talk surrounding the New York Knicks breakout point guard has revolved around race.

After his first loss as a starter, ESPN analysts wondered aloud if Lin had any weakness using the worst possible phrasing: asking if there was "a chink in the armor." Since then, the network has fired the person responsible for publishing the headline on ESPN.com and suspended a broadcaster for 30 days, as well.

Despite the controversial nature of using this phrase to describe this player, the most socially damaging things ESPN could have done were issue a public apology and reprimand its employees.

Imagine a young Knicks fan who loves Lin and sees ESPN apologize for using "chink in the armor." He then asks: "Dad, what does chink in the armor mean?"

Dad answers saying that it's a phrase used for when someone has only one weakness. Then the young fan asks why it's bad to say, and dad is forced to explain to him the derogatory use of the word "chink." Thus, a meaningless racial slur is preserved because of the hyper-sensitive political correctness of modern media.

By acknowledging this gaffe to such a degree, ESPN increased the social damage exponentially. The headline was only up for 30 minutes and the phrase was only uttered twice out loud: once on TV and once on an ESPN radio broadcast by a non-ESPN employee.

The ESPN.com statement issued stated, "we are aware of three offensive and inappropriate comments made."

In a certain context, the word chink can be offensive, but the "armor" idiom is used so frequently in sports journalism that it should take precedence. Instead, ESPN wrongly deemed the statements "offensive and inappropriate" and further perpetuated the perceived racism.

From a public relations standpoint, the response from ESPN was a no-brainer. Yet, we ought to care more about the public's continuing recognition of fake words created by hate-mongers. By ignoring pre-existing definitions and acknowledging ridiculous slurs in an effort to not be considered racist, the media does the exact opposite.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines racism as "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities." Media outlets deciding that, because Lin is Asian, he therefore does not have the capacity to be described using a commonly used phrase is the real racism.

The overreaction the comments spurred outweighs the severity of the comments themselves. Ridiculous concepts like racial slurs will never go away with this attitude. ESPN should have stood firm behind its employees who, most likely, had no bad intentions.

In a case like this, the racism exists nowhere but in our own minds. If Lin was of another race, the headline would have read the same, the unnamed writer would still have his or her job and people would be talking about exactly what they should be: Lin's game.

 

Joe Polito is a senior majoring in mass communications.

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34 comments

College Student
Wed Oct 24 2012 20:09
This article is mind blowing, and not in the good way. The fact of the matter is "chink in the armor" does refer to something else and if Lin were not Asian then yes, this wouldn't be an issue but guys, guess what, he IS Asian, and so this IS a big issue. If you don't think racism exists in this country then holy shit, wake up. When has ESPN ever used that phrase in a title and it just so happens to be under an Asian basketball player? That is a very racially insensitive word for Asians. This "gaff" deserves an apology.
Anonymous
Tue Mar 20 2012 08:55
Using the inane logic of the super-sensitive, all of you big bullies who have defended the ESPN firing and apology should personally apologize to me for using the word 'chink', although innocently, as any use of the word is supposed to be offensive. My reply to you would be to look you directly in the eye and repeat the word 'chink' ad infinitum without any intent to apologize.
get a life
Thu Feb 23 2012 10:22
Perhaps people need to quit trying to be so politically correct and try being less sensitive about everything. The worst you could say is this could be called a gaff. It is being interpreted by people incorrectly because they want to start something out of nothing.
Just amazing...
Wed Feb 22 2012 19:26
It's amazing how some of you still don't get it. Nobody is stopping you from inviting your friends and having a barbeque. You can even refer to the *FOOD* you serve as kraut, curry, nip of scotch etc. Just don't take a picture of your friends, ie. the actual *PEOPLE*, put it up on national media and label them as krauts, curry, and nips. The problem is entirely within ESPN, and ignorant commenters like the one below me who are so out of touch with reality.
Anonymous
Wed Feb 22 2012 16:00
I'm thinking of having a barbecue next weekend. But now I won't be able to offer my German friend any kraut with his hot dog, any beans to my Mexican friend, or any potatoes to my Irish friend. I don't want to offend. I can't offer my Japanese friend a nip of scotch or talk about the nippy weather. I can't call my Polish friend who is 6'5" and weighs 145 lbs. a beanpole any more. I can't talk to my lesbian engineer friend about the Dutch flood control dike system. I won't even be able to curry any favor with my Indian friend. Hell, I may call the whole thing off. People will always go for the double entendre or have what was called a "dirty mind". The problem is within us and not some ESPN writer who used a perfectly appropriate descriptive phrase for Mr. Lin's play. He was writing for a wide ESPN audience which includes dozens of nationalities, ethnicities, and races.
Anonymous
Wed Feb 22 2012 08:34
how about you write something about using the N word regarding Africa Americans and shouldn't apologize ?
Oliver North
Tue Feb 21 2012 19:57
Wow, I can't believe most of these comments are from College Educated Students. If anyone thinks the saying 'chink in the armor' is racist, they have never watched sports in their life. Its used over and over and has zero to do with asians or any other race, it means that there is a crack in the armor, or a perceived weakness that can be exploited. Simple as that. Nuff said
Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 17:35
Nonetheless, the fact that a big name like ESPN used "chink in the armor" is funny in and of itself". I love to see a big company like that trip on its own feet. Did this guy not realize that Lin was Asian or did it truly not occur to him that this would be taken offensively? What a numbnut.
Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 17:27
hehe.. chink in the armor indeed. Intended or not, that's pretty funny.
Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 14:47
Headlines are all-too-often witty and pun-filled these days, so you really can't feign ignorance that others might see one as such.

Further, who is anyone to say anyone else is WRONG for apologizing? What an asinine statement.

The intent is irrelevant. If an offensive statement is made that was not meant to be offensive, why WOULDN'T someone apologize for it being offensive. That's just a generally decent thing to do. If I stepped on your foot by accident, I should probably say, "Oh, excuse me, I'm sorry." Would you say I was wrong for apologizing simply because I didn't mean to step on that person's foot? How pigheaded, idiotic, and arrogant it would be to NOT apologize in such a situation.

We all mess up; it is our apologies that help mend these mistakes.

Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 14:25
Remind me not to send my kids to major in Mass Com at the University of South Florida.
new york asian dude
Tue Feb 21 2012 11:45
this is a good opportunity to teach the kid not to use the word Chink.
Joe
Tue Feb 21 2012 11:25
The word is offensive if you perceive it to be offensive... Take this quote: "In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves." if you do not identify with that word, then it will cause no harm to you... Once ESPN fired the writer, they are essentially feeding into racism.... I heard the term used when the Patriots were in the Superbowl undefeated numerous times, "Can the Giants find a chink in the patriots armor"... etc...

With this said, the issue I take is that we assume everyone has racism intertwined in their mind, but ESPN just added a new racial term for some people who never heard that word used in a ignorant and offensive way...

Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 10:44
If this was an overreaction, why the apology? Why did someone get fired?
This isn't about fearing what you can and can't say, it's about being sensitive to a world beginning to understand that disrespecting others is frowned upon because we are relational creatures. All communities have a right to what they assume to be inappropriate because it offends them in some way and to negate that is just insensitive Joe Polito.
What's interesting is that this would have faded like any other hot topic out there but you've added more fuel to the fire and prolonged this topic and angered more people further by your insensitivity. How then would your conversation continue Joe? "Oh son, they're making a big deal out of nothing because chink is a word that maybe a racial slur." Let's tell our children that's it's okay to use the word chink in relation to the asians out there.Yeah, let's teach the next generation that as long as you don't mean it in that way, it's okay to say anything you want.
However, what's done is done, you can't reverse what's been done but you can learn from it. You obviously aren't learning from it Joe Polito.
Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 10:44
"In my opinion... caucasians should have no opinion regarding this matter... you have never been racially discriminated against."

I can't call you stupid, because you're just uninformed, but that statement was pretty damn ignorant. Not only is your statement false, but you just discriminated against Caucasians in your own post.

Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 10:31
I know the word "chink" can be used as a racial slur, but I would never think of the idiom as racist. I mean, does that mean you can no longer call "a spade a spade"? Can I no longer call my kitchen "spick and span" when it's clean? Heck, Christmas will never be the same without "crackers".

While you can argue that the editor chose his words based on the players race, there is no way you can make the same argument when it comes to the commentator.

Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 09:56
Wow-This Joe Polito guy is from another planet or something. This article is an awesome example of the ignorance of his race. It's a shame that he has a outlet through mass media to project such ignorance.
Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 08:40
Every single one of my fellow commenters (so far) is an ignorant, oversensitive, politically correct ass. The phrase "chink in the armor" is an actual English euphemism used to refer to a single weakness in an otherwise impregnable defense. And the word "chink" is a real English word. It means a crack or fissure. (OMG, he said "crack"--he must hate black people!!!) I'm sorry if you're all to busy bravely fighting off the imaginary racists in your little bigot-haunted worlds to open a dictionary, but trust me, it's there. It wouldn't even make sense if he WAS trying to be "pun-ny". The phrase is a more-or-less complimentary one--it would be like trying to insult Herman Cain by saying, "In the wake of the financial downturn only Cain's financial savvy allowed his portfolio to stay in the black".

Jesus people have we really reached the stupefying point where HOMOPHONES are considered racist? What's next, words that RHYME with racial epithets?

The writer is 100% correct--neither the analyst nor ESPN has anything to apologize for.

Anonymous
Mon Feb 20 2012 23:19
Perhaps Mr. Polito should be the next journalist issuing an apology or being fired for racial insensitivity. Anyone who is not Chinese-American or even Asian has no right to say that the "chink" word is not considered derogatory to them. To me, the "c" word is a derogatory word. PERIOD! I am a Chinese-American and if anyone said that word to me or referred to me using that word I would be seriously offended. PERIOD! The "c" word is to an Asian-American what the "n" word is to an African-American. PERIOD! Jeremy LIn is being a gentleman in not letting this whole racist episode faze him. However, ESPN did the right thing in firing that editor regardless of what the "intent" was. To me, the intent could only be considered derogatory because the effect was exactly that to Asian-Americans like me.
Anonymous
Mon Feb 20 2012 18:25
Hey Mr. Polito, if there was a picture of Larry Bird taking out the trash, using a white plastic bag, do you think the headline "white trash day" would be offensive to Larry? My friends and I used to say that term all the time, until I realized the meaning of it. I don't use it anymore because I got educated, which is why it is a good thing to make a big deal of people's ignorances, so we can learn from them.




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