Linsanity has swept across America, even invoking the issue of race in sports—specifically basketball. The always-outspoken boxer, Floyd Mayweather, wasn't shy about bringing the issue to light and voicing his opinion.
On his Twitter page, Mayweather wrote:
While Mayweather's comments are far from the truth regarding the issue of praising players of certain races over those of others, they are correct in the notion that part of the fascination of Lin's success has to do with race.
Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com wrote a great piece about the "dark side" of the Jeremy Lin story, raising the question that others missed when scouting Lin, a successful player both at the high school and collegiate levels.
Doyel does a nice job of tightroping the issue and merely asking the question about why Lin was overlooked by so many time and time again. It's not enough.
A huge part of the fascination with Lin is the fact that it's unexpected. The NBA has more than 400 players, and how many are of Asian decent?
Jeremy Lin has always proved he can play ball. In his final year of high school, Lin led his Palo Alto High School Vikings to a 32-1 record and beat a national powerhouse in Mater Dei for California's Division II state title.
Even with that success, no scholarships. Then, he went on to have success at the college level in the Ivy League, playing for Harvard. He entered the NBA undrafted and was given few opportunities to showcase his talents. But at every level, when given the opportunity, Lin has done a marvelous job showing what he can do.
In basketball, the expectation has become that black players are the more athletic players and are better suited to play the guard and forward positions. For white players, they can either play point guard or big man. Whether right or wrong, these are the stereotypes of the current NBA.
Race is a fragile issue in society. Many people ignore the issue completely and pretend it doesn't exist. However, it does exist and plays a huge role in sports, especially basketball.
Jeremy Lin can play some serious basketball—there is little question remaining there. But like Doyel's question, why was he overlooked so often and by so many?
Sadly, the answer has to do with Lin's race.
What Lin is doing is incredible, and he deserves all the credit he is being given, but it shouldn't have been so unexpected. Skin color or where Lin's family is from shouldn't matter, but unfortunately it does.
Ever since Linsanity started, the jokes regarding Asian-Americans have been out in full force. Signs have included references to stereotypes and racial divides such as driving ability and yellow skin, and even crept into the inappropriate realm of genitalia.
Whitlock clearly crossed the line with his comment and rightfully apologized, but the amount of comments featuring jokes are bountiful. A quick Twitter search of "Jeremy Lin" reveals the incredible amount of racist jokes being thrown around.
While the Lin story has been great to follow and cheer for, it presents an opportunity to reflect on how race plays a role in sports and how that needs to be adjusted.
Jeremy Lin is a basketball player—a damn good one at that—and should be defined as such. Lin's success has nothing to do with his race and everything to do with an incredible work ethic and ability to seize the moment.
Hopefully, the success Lin is having will also help break down the stereotypes of NBA players filling certain roles based on race and more. It needs to happen, sooner or later.