Perhaps it was inevitable that some folks would try too hard on the Jeremy Lin story, attempt to go beyond puns like Linsanity, Lincredible, Super Lintendo and so on. The New York Knicks guard has enthralled the nation — landing on the cover of not only Sports Illustrated but also Time — and he appears to be having a blast. Naturally, others want to join in.
But a significant part of Lin’s novelty is his racial heritage: His parents migrated from Taiwan to California, where he was born and raised. So he’s not a just a sudden, unexpected star; he’s also the NBA’s first Asian-American star. And that has led to some questionable, if not downright offensive, imagery.
The New York Post was criticized for its headline — “Amasian!” — after Lin hit a 3-pointer to win Tuesday’s game in Toronto. The MSG Network, which airs Knicks games, came under fire Wednesday for airing the image of Lin’s face over a broken fortune cookie with the words “The Knicks Good Fortune.” Likewise, ESPN’s decision making was questioned when it aired a sign that referred to Lin as “The Yellow Mamba.”
The latter is a play on Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, whose nickname is “The Black Mamba.” But there are two problems with altering the handle for Lin: 1) Unlike black mambas, there are no yellow mamba snakes; and 2) referring to African Americans as “black” isn’t considered offensive, unlike using “yellow” to refer to Asian Americans.