LOS ANGELES-Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA)–the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and advocating balanced, sensitive, and positive depiction and coverage of Asian Americans–is praising ESPN for its handling of employees who used “chink in the armor” when reporting on New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. Following the Knicks’ first loss in eight games Friday night, an ESPN mobile headline read: “Chink in the Armor” accompanied by a picture of Lin. Wednesday night, ESPN anchor Max Bretos also used the phrase in asking why Lin failed to perform as well as he’d done in the past.
Saturday, MANAA Founding President Guy Aoki spoke with Rob King, ESPN’s Senior Vice President of editorial, print, and digital media, who was upset that the unfortunate incidents had hurt the reputation of the network. King explained that ESPN executives knew there were two upcoming games involving Lin and wanted to prevent any off-color remarks in reporting, so on Wednesday at the company’s monthly editorial board meeting, they reminded their department heads to be careful. An e-mail to their employees went out that night and early Thursday morning. It wasn’t clear if Bretos (who later tweeted that his wife is Asian and that he meant no disrespect toward Asians) had seen the memo, but the editor who wrote the Saturday morning article and headline should have.
Sunday morning, ESPN apologized to Lin and announced it had fired the editor and placed Bretos on a 30 day suspension. “We had not asked for anyone to be fired nor suspended,” explained Aoki. “King was supposed to get back to me once he understood the intention of the editor who wrote the headline—was it his attempt at humor? Was he not aware ‘chink’ is a racial slur against Chinese people? But he never called back. The apology should’ve extended to the entire Asian American community, not to just Lin. However, we appreciate how seriously ESPN took these gaffes.” “Even though ESPN tried to head off any possible problems, somehow, these derogatory phrases still leaked through,” pointed out MANAA board member Miriam Nakamura-Quan. “We want to know what new procedures the network will implement to prevent these kinds of mistakes from happening in the future. There needs to be tighter monitoring of print, radio, TV, and social media. It’s unfortunate that the Asian American community still has to endure these types of derogatory comments at a time when we should be celebrating the success of Jeremy Lin. It makes me sad.”
Racially offensive comments against Lin seem to pop up every other day. On February 10, FoxSports.com writer Jason Whitlock insinuated Lin had a two-inch penis; On Tuesday, MANAA asked the network to apologize, to reprimand the writer, and to initiate firm guidelines for how its reporters would cover Asian Americans in the future but has not received any response. MANAA is calling on all media companies to have discussions with their employees to prevent future racially insensitive incidents. Aoki feels that because so much media attention is being paid to Lin, insulting and dismissive attitudes toward Asian Americans will be coming to the surface more often, demonstrating how far this country has to go in its view of the community. “Despite our accomplishments,” asserts Aoki, “there are still two groups that can be joked about with impunity: Asians and gays. Hopefully, the media and general public will be forced to reflect on these issues so that we can become a more sensitive and enlightened society.”
MANAA is part of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) which regularly meets with the top four television networks–ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX–pushing for better inclusion of Asian Americans in their programming. MANAA, which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary on April 9, launched a nationwide campaign against the 1993 film Rising Sun. In 2001, Aoki debated Sarah Silverman on Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” over her use of “chinks” on a “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” appearance.