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Friendly tips from Asian Americans for sports journalists

Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks.
Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks.
Rob Carr/Getty Images

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Would you be surprised to learn that break-out basketball star Jeremy Lin is Asian American? Doubtful. Because in nearly all the coverage of the New York Knicks player's rapid ascension as savior for the team, his ethnicity floats pretty high to the top of any story.

It bubbled over when a few sports journalists used the phrase "chink in the armor" to describe a rare faltering performance by Lin in recent weeks. The ESPN journalist who wrote it was fired. Another was suspended.

In reaction to it all, the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) has issued guidelines for coverage of Lin. In a media advisory, they write, "AAJA has alarming number of references that rely on stereotypes about Asians or Asian Americans." It goes on to clarify Lin's precise biographical background (for one, he's Asian American, not Asian -- he grew up here, unlike Yao Ming, so best to avoid that comparison).

The guidelines upend stereotypes and warn of "danger zones" including phrasings such as "Me love you Lin Time." It was the AAAJ that flagged its concerns about ESPN reporters using the phrase "chink in the armor." The sports network is trying to stay in front of the controversy.

This week, ESPN's "First Take" talk show asked whether society has become oversensitive with race. Sportscaster Stephen Smith shouted, "In this whole Jeremy Lin situation, there have been things that have come up that I had no idea was offensive at all!"


What have journalists gotten right and wrong on the story of Jeremy Lin? Why the "Linsanity" in the first place? What are all the "danger zones" from the AAAJ? What are yours? And what's fair game?


Doris Truong, National President, Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA); multiplatform editor, The Washington Post