Was ESPN's Jeremy Lin Headline Racist or Just Cliché-sist?

ESPN's headline about the Knicks loss to the Hornets has resulted in an internet uproar. 

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The latest stage of racist-Jeremy Lin-joke grief to grip the internet -- characterized by a complete break with sanity -- may not be part of the Kübler-Ross model, but was nevertheless on full display when an unidentified ESPN.com headline writer chose to use the expression "chink in the armor" to characterize the team's loss on Friday to the New Orleans Hornets. ESPN anchor Max Bretos used the same phrase on air on Wednesday, and is now being more widely criticized for it in light of the online gaffe.

But was either instance overtly racist, or just an extremely poor choice of words? Coming off The New York Post's "AMASIAN!" headline and Jason Whitlock's puerile joke, among other racist instances to arise out of Linsanity, it's natural to assume the phrase was chosen intentionally. But watch Bretos' segment: He didn't pause or smirk in using the phrase, he just used it. And the expression "chink in the armor," as The New Yorker's Ben Greenman points out, is a cliche that pops up in sports journalism again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

Taking no chances, however, ESPN changed the headline 35 minutes later, then issued the following apology:

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.

ESPN’s senior vice president for editorial, print and digital media Rob King, issued this tweet, calling the headline "indefensible":

There's no defense for the indefensible. All we can offer are our apologies, sincere though incalculably inadequate.

And finally, on ESPN's official Twitter feed:

This is inexcusable. On behalf of everyone at ESPN, we apologize.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.