This past weekend, two ESPN employees who managed to use the phrase “chink in the armor” to describe Jeremy Lin were swiftly punished for the offenses.
The question on everyone’s mind now is: did the punishments fit the crimes?
Anthony Federico, 28, made the far more stupid gaffe of the two on Saturday night when he posted the following headline on ESPN’s mobile website: "Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin's 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-Snapping Loss to Hornets." The headline was posted at 2:30 in the morning, and then removed slightly more than a half an hour later when someone (finally) realized that it may be construed as an offensive remark.
(via The Big Lead)
By Sunday afternoon, Federico was no longer an employee of ESPN.
The World Wide Leader’s other major Lin-related gaffe came a few days earlier, when Max Bretos, a well known ESPN television personality, posed the following question live on the air:
"If there is a chink in the armor, where can he improve his game?" he asked.
As punishment for his mistake, Bretos was handed a 30-day suspension.
Over the weekend, he tweeted this apology:
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.
All things considered, it’s clear why Bretos’ punishment wound up being much lighter than Federico’s. Whereas the latter had ample time to work up a good headline, think about it, review the phrase and then run it past someone prior to posting it on the website – Bretos was working on live TV. Working on live TV means you have less time to think about your phrases, their double meanings and the potential consequences of what you say.
There is even a case to be made that Bretos’ punishment was too harsh given the seemingly innocent nature of his crime.
Federico’s situation is different. His firing, really, is justifiable on two counts. If he purposely posted that headline to be funny or mean-spirited figuring that he could hide behind how common the phrase he used is, then his termination was deserved and then some. If, however, he simply missed what the headline meant -- be it because of the hour it was posted or for any other reason -- then he quite simply didn’t do his job and deserved to get fired anyway.
In a later interview, Federico seemed genuinely repentant about what he had done.
"This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny," he told the Daily News. "I'm so sorry that I offended people. I'm so sorry if I offended Jeremy.
"My faith is my life," he said. "I'd love to tell Jeremy what happened and explain that this was an honest mistake."
The question that many are struggling with now is: are folks being oversensitive in regards Lin and the phrases used to describe him? Particularly in Bretos’ case, where there was really no way for the ESPN personality to review his comments and their impact prior to saying them – is a 30-day suspension too much?
Regardless of where you stand on the topic of these guys' punishments, it’s safe to say that we can no longer pretend like Lin’s race has nothing to do with the way he’s being covered. Even though that’s a popular saying among folks who are either blind to the realities of the situation or willingly choose to ignore them – Lin’s race does matter. It matters in the grand scheme of why his story is such a great one, it matters in the way people view him as a player, and it matters in the way that the media has to cover him.
And if you don’t think it matters, pose the question to Federico and Bretos and see what they say.