Following (justified) outrage over several examples of racially-insensitive coverage of Lin—including a headline published by ESPN.com which resulted in the firing of one staffer and suspension of another—the Asian American Journalists Association has issued a set of guidelines for media outlets salivating over the NBA’s Asian-American sensation.
“As NBA player Jeremy Lin’s prowess on the court continues to attract international attention and grab headlines, AAJA would like to remind media outlets about relevance and context regarding coverage of race,” the group wrote in an advisory. “In the past weeks, as more news outlets report on Lin, his game and his story, AAJA has noticed factual inaccuracies about Lin’s background as well as an alarming number of references that rely on stereotypes about Asians or Asian Americans.”
Among the “danger zones” identified by AAJA:
“CHINK”: Pejorative; do not use in a context involving an Asian person on someone who is Asian American. Extreme care is needed if using the well-trod phrase “chink in the armor”; be mindful that the context does not involve Asia, Asians or Asian Americans.
“ME LOVE YOU LIN TIME”: Avoid. This is a lazy pun on the athlete’s name and alludes to the broken English of a Hollywood caricature from the 1980s.
AAJA urged caution “when discussing Lin’s physical characteristics, particularly those that feminize/emasculate the Asian male (Cinderella-story angles should not place Lin in a dress). Discussion of genetic differences in athletic ability among races should be avoided. In referring to Lin’s height or vision, be mindful of the context and avoid invoking stereotypes about Asians.”
The group added: “Stop to think: Would a similar statement be made about an athlete who is Caucasian, African American or Latino?”
[Editor’s Note: The full guidelines are available here.]