'An Outdated and Ignorant Stereotype'

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Heh. SNL goes there, while ESPN fires the anonymous employee who wrote the "Chink In The Armor" headline for Jeremy Lin. It also suspended Max Bretos for using the phrase in an interview with Walt Frazier. I actually am sympathetic to Bretos.

Making catchy puns is part of writing headlines. Headlines are also written--you actually have to take a moment to think about them. With that in mind, it's really hard to believe that the person who wrote "Chink In The Armor" to describe Lin didn't see the double-entrendre. If they didn't, they shouldn't be writing headlines anyway.

Bretos's case is a little different. The phrase a "chink in the armor" is often applied to the weaknesses of athletes presumed to be unstoppable--not as a pun off of their name or ethnicity, but as a way to strictly describe a weakness in their game. In text you probably want to avoid that sort of phrase--much as you'd want to avoid referring to a Tiger Woods triumph as a "a black day for Woods' opponents," though it would less egregious than a headline.

But I think on air is considerably harder. I can easily see how Bretos used that phrase with no ill-intent at all, and he certainly didn't seem like he was going for a pun. My sense is that ESPN is covering themselves. An on-air apology (in Bretos) case probably would have sufficed.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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