In reaction to the outrage caused by the linsanely racist headline "Chink In The Armor," ESPN announced this morning that they fired the employee responsible for the headline about Jeremy Lin, and suspended anchor Max Bretos, who said the phrase on-air this week, for 30 days. Bretos also apologized via Twitter: "Wanted 2 apologize 2 all those I have upset. Not done with any racial reference. Despite intention,phrase was inappropriate in this context...My wife is Asian, would never intentionally say anything to disrespect her and that community."
Many people, including the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), were less than impressed with ESPN's initial mea culpa. ESPN was roundly criticized across the web—their mistake was even mocked in the cold open of SNL last night. In response, ESPN wrote today: "We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN. Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future."
ESPN added that there was a third instance of the phrase occurring Friday on ESPN Radio New York—but "the radio commentator is not an ESPN employee," so it isn't their problem, we guess. All of this leaves a few questions though: did Bretos come up with the phrase himself, or was he just reading it off of a teleprompter? And if so, why was he punished and not whoever was writing the script? And the headline writer was fired, but what about the person who should have been editing copy during that period?
Thoroughly unLinpressed author Buzz Bissinger, who has been one of the most vocal skeptics of Lin, weighed in on the ESPN controversy on CNN this morning. And while he agreed that ESPN was definitely in the wrong with the racist headline, he felt the need to be at least a little contrarian:
Chink in the armor is definitely offensive. I will not say what the penalty should or should not be. It's hard to believe it got in but ESPN does this all the time. They do offensive things and then try to backtrack. I think some of the other stuff, frankly, is not that big a deal. The fortune cookie thing didn't bother me. I made a spoof of it. I said what I wrote was going to be offensive. It probably was. It was about Michael Vick and Jeremy Lin opening a restaurant together. You know, this stuff is going to happen, and I think in a sense we have to get over it. It certainly hasn't hindered Jeremy Lin's popularity, and, you know, I don't think — I don't think it rises to the level of calling him a gook or a kike. People are having fun with it.
Well, we did suggest ESPN use "Gook's A Fluke: Knicks Loses" as an alternative headline to "Chink In The Armor," but none of ESPN's writers took the bait. How will Bissinger react once Lin has full trademark rights over "Linsanity," and ESPN is forced to start using their new buzzword, "Chinksanity?"
Update: The fired editor, Anthony Federico, says that it was an "honest mistake."