Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

“Some Lucky Lady in NYC is Going to Feel a Couple Inches of Pain Tonight”: Racism, Resentment Fuel ‘Linsanity’ Backlash

The Linsanity continues! Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin struck again last night, scoring 27 points, including a dramatic tie-breaking three-pointer with less than one second left in the game to beat the Toronto Raptors 90-87. Lin also notched a career-high 11 assists. He’s led the Knicks to six straight wins, no mean feat for a franchise that has been one of the more woeful in the game since anyone can remember.

Inevitably, the haters emerge. There has been a very real, very ugly backlash against the cultural phenomenon known as Linsanity. The most high-profile knock has come from former boxing champ Floyd Mayweather Jr., who tweeted, “Jeremy Lin is a good player, but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”

It was a despicably low blow, the latest of several from a fighter who had to resort to sucker-punching his last opponent to scratch out a victory. And it wasn’t the first time that Mayweather took aim at Asians. In 2010, he railed against six-time world champion and all-around class-act Manny Pacquiao, boasting with bigotry (and ignorance) that he would force the Filipino to “make some sushi rolls and cook some rice.”

As Peter S. Goodman noted in the Huffington Post, Mayweather’s statement is “demonstrably ridiculous.” “The last newcomer to post numbers comparable to Lin’s was a guy name LeBron James,” he wrote, addressing Mayweather directly. “I’m guessing you have heard of him. He is African-American, and he does not suffer from a lack of hype. Before that was Isiah Thomas, also black and no stranger to the spotlight.”

As misguided as Mayweather’s tweet may have been, you can’t call it racist. The same cannot be said of a shockingly disgusting tweet posted by Fox Sports columnist and commentator Jason Whitlock, who is also black. He wrote: “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple of inches of pain tonight.” 

Whitlock apologized after the Asian-American Journalists Association expressed shock and outrage. And a sense of humor: “The couple-inches-of-pain tweet overshadowed my sincere celebration of Lin’s performance and the irony that the stereotype applies to pot-bellied, overweight male sports writers, too.”

While Whitlock’s tweet may have been the more vile of the two, at least he has apologized. The same cannot be said of Mayweather, who has dug in and defended his remarks.

“Other countries get to support/cheer their athletes and everything is fine,” he said. “As soon as I support Black American athletes, I get criticized.”

Again, Mayweather’s ignorance is on full display. Lin, who hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, is as American as Mayweather.

The boxer wasn’t done. Moments after that, he tweeted: “I’m speaking my mind on behalf of other NBA players. They are programmed to be politically correct and will be penalized if they speak up.”

Sadly, Mayweather and Whitlock are not alone. If Lin had an inch and a pound for every sports commentator who’s said he’s “stronger than he looks,” he’d be well over six feet tall and pushing 200 pounds. What’s that you say? Lin is well over six feet tall and weighs 200 pounds? You’d never know it from listening to people talk.

Others have attributed Lin’s success to his intellectual prowess, slamming the fact that he played for Harvard, not exactly a basketball powerhouse. But by chalking Lin’s remarkable run up to brainpower alone, the talking heads have, intentionally or otherwise, insulted his extraordinary physical skills.

Whether Lin continues to perform at his current level remains to be seen. If he does, he can expect even more vitriol from the haters. If he doesn’t, those same folks will point and say “see, I told you so.” Haters will hate, as they always have. But all the noise surrounding the Linsanity is obscuring what ought to be glaringly obvious. As Goodman notes, “In the end… Lin is a very good basketball player, no more, no less.”

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