AAJA to ESPN: Headline About Lin Inexcusable

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The Asian American Journalists Association sent the following letter to ESPN on Feb. 18.

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin had a bad night Friday. Regrettably, so did ESPN. Using “a chink in the armor” to describe Lin’s poor performance was inexcusable.

We at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) find it hard to fathom how such an offensive headline appeared on your publishing platforms. The phrase was even spoken on-air.

We are glad ESPN has recognized its mistake, and we appreciate the quick apology for the transgression.

Many people, not just in Asian American communities, are shocked that a news company with a long tradition of excellence would use a racial epithet. It’s particularly galling because of the weeks of discussion about Lin, his heritage and even the wave of outright racism surrounding his stardom.

We are particularly concerned that an organization as large as yours did not have the proper checks in place to prevent the mistake. It is hard to fathom how editors on so many of your platforms failed to uphold your normally high standards.

Of course, it disappoints us to see one of our most valued and committed partners in diversity stumble. As you well know, this incident does not live up to the Leadership in Diversity Award that AAJA bestowed on ESPN in 2010. But we trust that you will transform this incident into a teachable moment.

We understand and appreciate that the offensive headline has been removed. But that’s not enough. We would like to understand how it happened and what actions are being taken by ESPN to make sure such missteps do not recur. Your internal review could be instructive for others in our industry who want to improve the systems they have – or need to put in place – to ensure that fairness, accuracy and good taste are reflected in the news coverage of our communities.

As always, AAJA stands with you in our shared mission of diversity in America’s newsrooms, and we welcome an opportunity to discuss how we can help you and your employees treat our communities with the fairness and respect they deserve.

Sincerely,

Doris Truong, AAJA National President

Bobby Caina Calvan and Jam Sardar, AAJA MediaWatch Co-Chairs

ESPN’s Statement

Kevin Ota of ESPN MediaZone posted the following message on Feb 18:

“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.”

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