This past Saturday morning on ESPN, there was yet another faulty headline aimed at Korean soccer player, Lee Dong-Gook.
The headline read: “Gook double earns victory.”
Had ESPN made an innocent blunder of mixing up the soccer player’s name? Or was “gook*” actually used as some sort of perverse referral to Lee Dong-Gook’s Asian ethnicity?
Timothy Burke of Deadspin claims this wasn’t just a simple mistake:
“Gook” is actually just part of Lee’s given name, and not an especially descriptive one, either. Nobody who knew what they were doing would use “Gook” to mean Lee Dong-Gook…
Another issue that comes to mind is the fact that writers for ESPN, or particularly this one, may be oblivious to the ordering of Eastern names. The sheer number of Asian athletes should make it an obligation for writers of this major sports enterprise to know this, but here we see yet another disturbing headline from them after the “Chink in the Armor” incident.
Was this a case of carelessness or a sick play on words? In any case, ESPN has correctly changed this article’s headline to: “Lee double earns victory.” Even if they had seriously thought “Gook” was this player’s last name, it should’ve been a thoughtful gesture to have not given the article this title anyhow given the historic and all around offensive implications behind the term.
*Gook is an ethnic slur. It is aimed primarily at people of East Asian descent. More here.
McDonald’s sponsored “My Inspirational Story” Essay Contest Award Ceremony took place yesterday in PS. 24, lower East side. Host David Yi, from Daily News, guest speaker Donnie Kwak, senior editor at ESPN, and Jef Castro, photo-editor at Entertainment Weekly, were among the invitation list. In addition, McDonald’s Martial Arts Dance Crew delivered a special performance at the ceremony.
Ten outstanding essays were chosen, and amongst these ten contestants, who are all students age from 8 to 11 years-old, 3 were chosen respectively for 3rd, 2nd, and 1st prizes.
Generasian’s very own staff members Joey Wang and Emily Q. Lu had the chance to conduct interviews with the guests, performers, and host of the ceremony, as well as Ronald McDonald and Michael Sullivan, owner of McDonald in Queens and Brooklyn.
When questioned about the recent controversial ESPN headline regarding Jeremy Lin, Donnie Kwak, being an Asian-American employee at ESPN, expressed his shock towards the discovery. However, Kwak does not believe the intention of the former editor, who has been since fired from ESPN, was malicious; it only showed his incompetence of being in the position of an editor.
For more information about the interview, please follow our blog and check for updates of a video interview in the near future!
However, while Begley was announced as responsible for writing the article, he did not come up with the headline.
It was announced that 28-year-old editor Anthony Federico of ESPN was responsible for following through with the “Chink in the Armor” headline late last week. He said in an apology,
This had nothing to do with me being cute or funny. I’m so sorry if I offended Jeremy.
Federico said he also understood why he was fired, saying that “ESPN did what they had to do.” Unfortunately for him, Federico also openly expressed that he had used the phrase “at least 100 times” in headlines, and did not even realize the potential offense it would cause to the Asian community when he used the phrase on a Lin story.
Federico called Lin one of his heroes - not just because he’s a big Knicks fan, but because he feels a kinship with a fellow “outspoken Christian.”
“My faith is my life,” he said. “I’d love to tell Jeremy what happened and explain that this was an honest mistake.”
California Congresswoman Judy Chu, an Asian American politician, said that “the ‘C’ word is just as bad as the ‘n’ word when it comes to racial slurs, and she isn’t letting ESPN off the hook for using the term to describe NBA breakout star Jeremy Lin.” (New York Daily News). She said Monday that “the use of that term is appalling and offensive” on MSNBC.
While this unfortunately cost Federico’s career, the American audience is now becoming aware of the cultural sensitivity the Asian community faces when it comes to the word “Chink”. It is truly unfortunate that Federico lost his job over something that he did not intend. At least now he understands that the word has serious consequences when used in the wrong context - something many in the American public may not have known, scarily enough. Lin responded to the incident:
I don’t think it was on purpose or whatever, but they have apologized and so from my end I don’t care anymore. Have to learn to forgive and I don’t even think that was intentional. Or hopefully not.
Courtesy of New York Daily News writers Rheana Murray, Irving Dejohn and Helen Kennedy.
Just a few days after the “Chink in the Armor” headline was taken down underneath the image of Jeremy Lin, ESPN fired the employee responsible for the offensive headline.
Lin had addressed the controversy during a news conference Sunday, after the Knicks won against the Dallas Mavericks 104-97. Lin expressed,
I don’t think it was on purpose. At the same time, they’ve apologized. I don’t care anymore.
We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian American community, including the Asian American employees at ESPN.
Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future,” ESPN said.
Although we never will know what the true intentions were of the writer and copy-editors who wrote and approved that headline, let this be a hard lesson to ESPN that no matter what time of day or night something of that level is posted, it will get out there. Power of the internet, people.
When in doubt, just don’t write it. It’s just never worth taking the risk, using slang terms and phrases that could just potentially offend anyone. While sensational reporting may very well grab the attention of online readers, it is just never worth someone risking their career for something as silly and easily avoidable as submitting that controversial, four-word headline. What a writer might believe is a subtle pun or punchline might be taken critically and offend someone else.
And to have some (hopefully) closure, I close with a thought-provoking comment from AngryAsianMan:
I guess that’s an important component of how Jeremy Lin has inadvertently opened up the dialogue on what it means to be Asian in America. With all the hero worship and scrutiny of number 17, the lone Asian face on the court, will people think twice about making a dumbass Asian comment? I wouldn’t hold my breath, but like I said, it’s a start.
Courtesy of Yahoo! News, AngryAsianMan.com, and CNN.
A CHINK IN THE ARMOR: WHAT IT REALLY MEANS
“Last night, ESPN.com’s mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET. The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET. We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.”
“Wednesday night on ESPNews, an anchor used an inappropriate word in asking a question about Jeremy Lin. ESPN apologizes for the incident and is taking steps to avoid this in the future.”
On Wednesday, the ESPN anchor had said the following:
He’s handled everything very well, as you said, unflappable, but if there is a chink in the armor, where can Lin improve his game?
Saying it on-air is one thing. But for anyone of us who diligently follows the media online, in the craze of screenshot, shared, and reposted images like memes and viral images, the offensive headline made it worse for ESPN as the title underneath the image of Jeremy Lin playing went viral itself.
The term “chink in the armor” has been used over 3,000 times on ESPN (courtesy of contributor Greg McNeal of Forbes.com). However, not to give the writer/editor the benefit of the doubt, but let’s step back for a moment and actually think about what the phrase means.
“A chink in someone’s armor” as defined by Webster Dictionary, means a weak point in someone’s character, arguments, or ideas, making them vulnerable to attack or criticism. What the anchor and writer/editor probably intended was to try and find out what Jeremy Lin’s weakness just might be - whether he was at all vulnerable or capable enough to lose.
But clearly the anchor and writer did not take into consideration the flip side of the term “Chink”. The phrase “chink in the armor” may have been used over 3,000 times on ESPN, but most likely perhaps not within the context of discussing the weakness of an Asian American athlete.
This is where they should have stepped back and taken caution in using the phrase. Was the use of the phrase more to create sensationalism than serious reporting? Or were the anchor and writer so completely unaware of the kind of response they would get for using “chink in the armor” within the context of an Asian American athlete? “Let’s also not forget ESPN has a bit of a record with inappropriate comments: “Trail of Tears,” “He’s out having a Taco” and “White boy wasted.” It’s a huge lesson for ESPN, and as one who appreciates serious journalism and values sensitive language, I hope ESPN takes that into account and doesn’t make that mistake again.
**Update Sunday, February 19, 3:30 PM**
ESPN has fired the headline writer responsible for publishing the “Chink in the Armor” headline. Max Bretos, the anchor on ESPN who used the same phrase on-air, has been suspended for 30 days. Additionally, a radio commentator was caught using the phrase on air on ESPN Radio; however, the commentator was not an ESPN employee.
ESPN further went on to apologize to Lin and to the Asian American community:
We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian American community, including the Asian American employees at ESPN. Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future.
What did I say? What did I say about using the expression “Chink in the Armor” when talking about Jeremy Lin? It’s just best to avoid it. But here it is.
This was the actual headline on ESPN.com earlier this evening. It has since been taken down, but damn, some idiot editor was actually insensitive enough to think this was a clever idea? You lose, ESPN. That’s racist! (Thanks, Kirk.)
UPDATE: Here’s ESPN’s statement regarding the headline:
Last night, ESPN.com’s mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET. The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET. We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.
Yes. You better review the hell out of those editorial procedures.
Post by AngryAsianMan.com.
Courtesy of AngryAsianMan.