Jeremy Lin: "Chink in the Armor" Is Today's "Niggardly"

Categories: Media, Sports
Chink-in-the-armor.jpg
This article led to one more turnover -- the guy who wrote the headline quickly lost his job
Writing headlines is a job somewhat akin to playing on the offensive line: Nobody is ever going to hear your name unless you screw something up or they're wheeling you away.

In Anthony Federico's case, both happened at the same time.

The 28-year-old ESPN editor would do well to omit from his résumé that he's the guy who was summarily fired after writing a headline about Jeremy Lin that used the unfortunate cliché "chink in the armor."

That was a bad headline. So was "Death Calls Nibs Price," the actual head for an obit featuring a photo of Price on the phone. But, years later, we can laugh about that. We won't be laughing at any "chink in the armor" headlines now or in the foreseeable future. Federico, who has become the Steve Bartman of headline writers, isn't going to be in a funny mood for a long time yet.

Speaking of which, despite condemnations from bloviating politicians, it stretches credulity to imagine this headline was a deliberate attempt at humor. It's a lot easier to imagine a late-shift editor inadvertently writing a racially charged headline at 2:30 a.m. than carefully plotting out surefire career suicide. In that manner, l'affaire d' Chink in the Armor harks to the 1999 Niggardly Incident.

You may recall that one. A bit over a decade ago, David Howard -- an overly erudite aide to Washington, D.C. mayor Anthony Williams -- used the term "niggardly" during a public meeting when discussing a fund's meager budget.

This was, technically, apropos: "Niggardly" essentially means "stingy." But for Howard, who is white, to use this term in mixed company was unwise and unnecessary. He should have just said "stingy."

Howard resigned, and Williams -- under heavy political pressure -- accepted his resignation. However, in a rare instance of everything really working out in the end, the media and general public overreacted to this overreaction, and Williams was successfully pressured to hire Howard back.

Don't expect a similarly neat resolution for Federico. It remains far-fetched to allege that a professional editor for a straitlaced company like ESPN would actually attempt to slip a horribly offensive racial pun into a headline and expect to remain gainfully employed. But obliviously doing so is still a firing offense. It's kind of like saying "bomb" in an airport.

The dizzying rapidity of what we used to quaintly call "The Information Superhighway" has made it easier than ever to foul up one's life's work with the click of a button. Sadly, Federico was driving a Corvair on this highway -- unsafe at any speed.

Best of luck to him. Like the athletes he covered, sometimes all people remember are your mistakes.

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39 comments
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pwnageguy11
pwnageguy11

Show respect for Jeremy Lin. He's taller, more popular, a great basketball player (despite his turnovers) and.... Yeah

dontcare
dontcare

Hi!  i'm just here to tell people that Korean's taste good.

John Reece
John Reece

So is Abraham Lincoln chinking his log cabin racism?  

Kenny
Kenny

Using “a chink in the armor” to describe Lin’s poor performance was inexcusable. It was purely racist!

Has America change so much that people doesn’t recognize the word “Chink” is a derogatory term and it’s

an ugly racial slur?

Calling someone a “Chink” is about as insulting as you can get not just to the Chinese but also to the

Asian people in general. It’s no different than calling a Black, “Nigger”, a Japanese, “Jap” or a Jewish, “Jew”.

I’m glad ESPN has recognized its mistake, and a quick apology for the offense.

pantherhare
pantherhare

To all those defending the headline, what if there was a picture of Elton John with a lighter in hand accompanied by the headline, "Looking for a fag" -- wouldn't that be offensive?  Even though fag is a common slang for cigarette?  It's called context.

Observer
Observer

 "Looking for a fag" is not a phrase like "chink in the armor".  Further, "chink in the armor" is a phrase that has been used by numerous ESPN writers and editors in thousands of articles and in headlines in reference to teams and individuals. 

ActivistBob
ActivistBob

Nigger in the woodpile.   I got Jewed.  Indian-giver.

All unacceptable.

Double standard.  Stop using " c_____ in the armor".  ESPN have  been idiots thousands of times.  As professional journalists, can't you come up with another phrase?  Put an end to it now.

Ronn Owens of KGO Radio in San Francisco is a despicable, ignorant, hypocritical, arrogant racist. 

Shouldn't Jews, as an historically persecuted group, know better?

Seventyfive
Seventyfive

Typical asian hating liberal bias.  Sorry we are able to succeed despite racists like yourself.

Arcticevs
Arcticevs

"Chink in the armor" is referring to a fault in Lin's ability, his turnovers. This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact of him Asian, honestly, calm down. Don't get angry just for the sake of being angry at something. It was a perfectly good title and phrase, describing Lin and his weakness of turnovers. The editor has used the phrase multiple times, on players who aren't Asian. So for those who think its racist, think a little.Chink in the armor - someone or something which seems to be strong, but they have a small fault which may cause them problems.

Jake Lawson
Jake Lawson

do you know the word "niger" is a Latin adjective meaning black. Look at the meaning of this word, it's just a word of color and not a racial slur. You try using that on a headline when writing an article about a black player and see if you ever see the sunshine again

jdb
jdb

The world racist get's thrown around so loosely that I'm afraid it is completely lot's it's definition.  

sdr984
sdr984

pure SEO grabbing headline.  those in glass houses

Zen
Zen

I think the 'racist' ones are those that make a statement with no racial intent an ethnic insult.  If you find this racist, YOU are the one who is putting two and two together.  ESPN is Disney, nobody in their right mind would write a racial slur as a headline working for that Evil Empire of conformity.

Xaiesque
Xaiesque

calling a white person RACIST = calling a black person NIGGER = calling an asian person CHINK = calling women BITCH. you guys are all so simple minded this what i'm saying is the truth stop arguing like little babies you sorry bitches haha everyone's mad

VietnameseChink
VietnameseChink

Yeah it probably wasn't the smartest thing to say, but I doubt it was purposely used in a racist context. Even if it was, J. Lin is still awesome. 

Cliched
Cliched

Chink in the Armor has nothing to do with ethnicity and the reported did nothing wrong. The Urban Dictonary has the following definitions for the phrase. They reflect the common useage and show that it has been in use for some 600 years. ESPN should apologize to Federico and reinstate him.1) An narrow opening and vunerable area in one's armor that the opponent will usually aim for. This term relies on "chink" in the sense of "a crack or gap," a meaning dating from about 1400 and used figuratively since the mid-1600s.

2) A figurative term for a one's weakness, largest flaw or their prevention of success.a) Because of the chink in the armor of Sir Lancelot, his opponent was able to break past his defense and inflict a dangerous flesh wound.b) We would have aced this presentation if Leo wasn't in our group. He didn't study at all, he's the chink in the armor.

Jim Sanders
Jim Sanders

whatever..... do you know the word "niger" is a Latin adjective meaning black. Look at the meaning of this word, it's just a word of color and not a racial slur. You try using that on a headline when writing an article about a black player and see if you ever see the sunshine again.

Svaihingen
Svaihingen

 When I get a job writing for the Rome Times - after travelling in my wayback machine to the year 10 ad - I could use the word niger with impunity.  Niger in English is a country in Africa - the n-word IS a slur in ENGLISH - which you and I speak.

Robert Chang
Robert Chang

Purposely to make joke to hurt some body else is not smart any way.

Hubu
Hubu

Oh my gosh this is terrible I hope he didn't mean ' chink ' in the context he used it it doesn't sound like he did plus you can't tell people how or what to be offended by come on guys

Jerry
Jerry

Use a dictionary, look it up losers.

Steve To
Steve To

I think those idiots at ESPN would allow these headlines on their mobile site without any proofreaders.

ESPN Headlines

-Germany Dirk Nowitski torched them in the first half but ran out of gas as they loose a close game to Israeli’s Omar Casspi and the Cleveland Cavs

-Nash whips Kobe again and again and again!

-Eduardo Najera dishes the taco to Boris Diaw for the winning basket!

Yulirice
Yulirice

Actually, most of the Americans are racist.It's not a big suprise to see the headline.

jdb
jdb

Racism doesn't exist elsewhere?  Your an idiot.

Observer
Observer

I did an advanced google search for chink / armor on the ESPN website: 16,200 results.

"A chink in the Ray's armor" May 24, 2010"For the Saints, a chink in the armor." September 28, 2010"It's the one chink in the Bulls' armor." May 19, 2011Federico should sue ESPN for wrongful discharge. 

pantherhare
pantherhare

If you noticed, it's always a chink in someone's armor.  If the headline read, A Chink in Lin's Armor, I would be less inclined to think it had racial undertones, since it wouldn't make sense as a slur.  But here, it was just "Chink in the armor" with a picture of Lin.

Observer
Observer

No. The possessive is not always used in the phrase. More from advanced google of ESPN website: I tried hard to find a chink in the armor in something related to Texas A&M or Coach Sherman, but I could not find it. January 21, 2010. The Jayhawks have won bigger, but they haven’t won better. With everyone looking for a chink in the armor, and some already thinking they’ve found it -- this week marked the first time this season the Jayhawks weren’t a unanimous No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. January 2, 2010.

plasticlain
plasticlain

Maybe everyone should be fired for writing such a terribly cliched phrase then.

Kelsey
Kelsey

And here I was thinking chink in the armor meant you have a weakness somewhere. I'm so behind on what's supposed to be racist. 

John Doe
John Doe

When I saw this first appear on ESPN, I though, "Oh no, there is going to be a big blow-up over this completely non-offensive saying, because stupid people are going to be offended."

Then I thought, "Nah, people aren't going to be overreacting, people aren't as stupid as they used to be, and "chink in the armor" is a very common phrase, not as unknown as "niggardly."

But nope, the idiots have to whine. What a joke this country is.

Jake Lawson
Jake Lawson

it's also a joke that you're still alive in this country!

idunno
idunno

How bout crack-er in the armor?

"Arf!" Lemming
"Arf!" Lemming

While we're at it ...renege ; a crew change at the car wash.

Negative8
Negative8

You're an idiot for trying to get more hits with putting chink and niggardly in the same headline. This is irrelevant, shameful and proves you had nothing better to turn in to your editor today.

wordlady
wordlady

 Actually, I think it's brilliant to put the two contested terms in the same headline.  The fact that the author uses quotation marks demonstrates that he is not using the terms in any racist way.  Unfortunately, many people are so ignorant that they are not aware of the meaning of these terms and therefore conclude that they are "racist" because they sound like a racist term. I do agree that the original writer (being a writer, and therefore more aware of language than the average bear) should not have used the expression as a pun (which he claims he did not intend), AND also should have anticipated that ignoramuses would respond as they did.

Joe Eskenazi
Joe Eskenazi

I'm assuming you skipped the article, then?

Best,

JE

a name to comment.
a name to comment.

Seems to me, he was screwed either way: If it was racist in nature, fired. If he was too stupid to realize the racial implications--intentions irrelevant--then, fired.

P.S. @ Joe Eskenazi: The comparisons are starkly different between this incident and the one involving David Howard. He was not specifically describing an African American person nor was he writing a headline about a black athlete.

 

guest
guest

chink in armor was a great headline, people overreact

Kenny
Kenny

Using “a chink in the armor” to describe Lin’s poor performance was inexcusable. It was purely racist!

Has America change so much that people doesn’t recognize the word “Chink” is a derogatory term? It’s an ugly racial slur?

Calling someone a “Chink” is about as insulting as you can get not just to the Chinese but also to thecAsian people in general.

I’m glad ESPN has recognized its mistake, and a quick apology for the offense.

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