At this point, the constant slew of racism towards athletes can probably be studied as its very own category of white supremacy.
It is, unfortunately, normal for people in competitive sports to stoop to all kinds of new lows to get into the heads of their opposing team. However, calling an Asian person “coronavirus” just because you are going head-to-head on a basketball court is much more than a jab at the ‘enemy’ team. It’s blatant racism.
Jeremy Lin, 林書豪, has faced nearly a decade of obstacles on the court. His accomplishments — being the first Asian-American to win an NBA championship, for example — come to balance, unfortunately, with the microaggressions and discriminatory acts of fellow players, coaches, fans, etc. that are involved in his sphere of work. Recently (the exact date is unknown), someone on the court called Lin ‘coronavirus,’ which relates back to where the blame for the COVID-19 pandemic has misguidedly fallen: on the shoulders of Asian people.
The player who called Lin ‘coronavirus’ has been identified, but not publicly named. Lead NBA Insider for The Athletic, Shams Charania, tweeted about the situation, citing a spokesperson from G League, who assured that the situation was being handled internally. Supposedly, “the player understands the impact that hearing his comment had on Lin,” but we all know how that usually goes, right? They get a slap on the wrist for an extremely racist comment and go on to speak to other members of minority groups in the same, demeaning way. Maybe, and hopefully, this time will be different.
Whether or not this person is punished, though, does not seem to matter to Lin, who handled the situation with grace. He took to Twitter to say, “I know this will disappoint some of you but I’m not naming or shaming anyone. What good does it do in this situation for someone to be torn down? It doesn’t make my community safer or solve any of our long-term problems with racism. [ . . .] The world will have you believe that there isn’t enough justice or opportunities to go around. That we only have time to pay attention to one people group at a time so we all need to fight for that spot.”
He’s right. This incident is an isolated one, and a relatively mild one in comparison to the various hate crimes against Asian-Americans, which have only spiked since the U.S. saw the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it is not concrete evidence, former President Donald Trump is partially to blame for this. He constantly referred to the coronavirus as the ‘Chinese virus,’ and instilled blame for the pandemic in all Asian-Americans. There is a lot to unpack there, but I’ll leave this as food for thought: various coronaviruses have existed for decades, if not centuries (COVID-19 is simply a newer one, which, most likely, originated in animals), and — this should be obvious — not every Asian-American is from China, or is even Chinese. There is no rhyme or reason for these attacks, or for microaggressions, like calling Jeremy Lin ‘coronavirus’ on the court. It is just racist.
Instead of focusing on himself, Lin wrote out his frustrations with the normalized racism against Asian people on Instagram: “something is changing in this generation of Asian Americans. We are tired of being told that we don’t experience racism, we are tired of being told to keep our heads down and not make trouble. We are tired of Asian American kids growing up and being asked where they’re REALLY from, of having our eyes mocked, of being objectified as exotic, or being told we’re inherently unattractive. We are tired of the stereotypes in Hollywood affecting our psyche and limiting who we think we can be. We are tired of being invisible, of being mistaken for our colleague, or told our struggles aren’t as real. [ . . .] Being a 9-year NBA veteran doesn’t protect me from being called “coronavirus” on the court. [ . . . ] So here we are again, sharing how we feel. IS ANYONE LISTENING??”
This was dated Feb. 25, around the time Lin spoke up about the coronavirus incident. It seems he only did so to share one example of the countless racist remarks he has heard, and to tell us that this is the same experience millions of Asian-Americans have. Microaggressions build to brutal incidents of vandalizing one’s way of living or physical assaults of elderly people.
It makes sense, then, that Lin does not want this one person to be named or punished. He would rather our efforts turn toward ending discrimination as a whole. At the end of his Twitter post, he expressed this sentiment: “Listen to the voices that are teaching us how to be anti-racist toward ALL people. Hear others’ stories, expand your perspective. I believe this generation can be different. But we will need empathy and solidarity to get us there.”
Featured Image: Courtesy of NBS Sports