While much research has been conducted on whether or not discrimination against African-Americans occurs in the NBA, there have been very limited opportunities to explore the discrimination of Asians in the NBA, largely due to the fact that few Asians even play basketball, let alone make it to the NBA. Until recently, perhaps the most well-known Asian player in the NBA was Yao Ming, who had a relatively short career as a big man. Then, in February 2012, Jeremy Lin took the NBA by storm. The little-known guard, a Harvard University graduate, began to log minutes for the New York Knicks and had a huge influence on the team's turnaround. The more Lin played and the more the sports world began to hear about him, the more evident it became that as an Asian-American; he faced and continues to face many stereotypes and forms of discrimination in his short career.
Back in 2008, in an article for the San Francisco Chronicle, Lin described some of the difficulties he faced growing up as an Asian-American who played basketball. Lin said that his game was consistently underrated because he was Asian and coaches and recruiters called him too short, too skinny. According to Lin, "It's a sport for white and black people. You don't get respect for being an Asian American basketball player in the U.S." Despite leading his high school team to a state title and being named Northern California Player of the Year his senior season, Lin got no Division I scholarship offers: he is convinced that his race played a role in this. At Harvard, Lin continued to deal with haters and was consistently the target of numerous stereotypes from opposing fans and players, hearing things like "Go back to China. Orchestra is on the other side of campus. Open up your eyes."
In this YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vh_sTbcdtuk), Lin describes how he learned to deal with the criticism and discrimination he faced; turning his anger into motivation. Coming out of college, Lin was an undrafted free agent attempting to make an NBA team.
Lin has taken on the challenge of representing the Asian-American population in the NBA, attempting to defy stereotypes and prove to the Asian-American community that it is possible to be a successful professional athlete. In an interview with Rick Quan (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaP8UeJBwtQ&feature=related), Lin describes his experience with opposing players and teammates in the NBA. Overall, Lin has felt that many players and his teammates have gone out of their way to welcome him and congratulate him on his successes thus far.
However, the news media continues to doubt Lin's athletic abilities and many are making stereotypical and discriminatory comments. For example, one example of this is a headline posted on ESPN after Lin had his first off-night since the beginning of Linsanity. The article "**** in the Armor" briefly appeared on ESPN's website following the game, and immediately drew the ire of fans, teammates and sports writers, especially given that Lin had been quoted saying that "****" was one of the racial slurs he was taunted with while playing at Harvard. Also, as described on 8Asians, a blog site on Asian-American issues, the University of Arizona's "UA Tonight with Mike Brilliant" show is discussed. Apparently the show did a skit of Jeremy Lin (which has since apparently been taken down) that touches on many negative Asian American stereotypes including: "Asians look alike" and "Asian men have small ****" to "Asians eat dogs".
In essence the fans' obsession with Lin and Linsanity are a stereotype: would fans be as fascinated by Lin if he weren't Asian? If Lin was white or black, would he just be another NBA point guard? By Lin defying stereotypes, he has captured sports fans, either fans waiting for his next great play, or NBA fans waiting for him to fail and jump on the bandwagon to criticize him.
As a Knicks fan, I have been watching many of the games lately, and one thing I have seemed to notice is that Lin hardly gets any calls from NBA refs. When Lin drives to the basket, he rarely gets a foul call, and if he does, it usually has to be a hard hit. I don't know whether or not you can equate this to essentially being a rookie in the NBA or whether some NBA refs are prejudice, but it would be interesting to hear some thoughts on this...
If nothing else, Lin has truly engaged Knicks fans and made them want to start watching their team again. How that has to do with Lin being Asian-American, I'm not really sure, but it is definitely exciting to see someone succeed in a league dominated by African-Americans.
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