Floyd Mayweather Jr. did it again on Monday afternoon. In one little tweet, he managed to rile up and tick off fans of boxing, basketball and everyone in between. Here is what the undefeated champion had to say regarding New York Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin:
“Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he's Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise.”
The backlash has been deafening. Anywhere you turn, any site you visit – absolutely everyone is letting Mayweather have it. To say that his sentiments don’t appear to be shared by other sports fans and casual basketball observers would be the understatement of the year. And of course, that sort of reaction plays right into Mayweather’s trap. He’s a master provocateur, and he’s built an entire career on being the bad guy and saying things that nobody else wants to say.
He saw this reaction coming from a mile away.
Nothing in Mayweather’s 28-word tweet is especially controversial. Nothing in that tweet is original or breaking new ground. Questions regarding whether Lin is overhyped or, more specifically, overhyped because he’s Asian in a sport with a predominantly African-American base of players have been raised for days now.
Just yesterday, mind you, we responded to the assertion that Lin is being overrated or overhyped by the mainstream press.
To say that Lin is being overhyped right now is stupid, because he’s been hyped for all of nine days. You can't get overhyped in nine days. And given the fact that he’s been living up to and surpassing the expectations set for him, it’s a little ludicrous to suggest that folks are thinking too highly of him.
That’s very different than what Mayweather is saying. Mayweather’s comment can be deconstructed into two halves: the right half and the wrong half.
The right half notes that part of Lin’s allure is that he’s Asian. That is part of what draws people to him. Sports fans (and everyone else) love seeing folks that are out of the norm, and an Asian-American baller out of Harvard absolutely killing the competition is out of the norm. It’s undeniable that part of Lin’s appeal is that he’s Asian. Remember "The Jewish Jordan"?
The wrong part of Mayweather’s comment, though, is that Lin being Asian is the sole reason he’s getting this much hype. He’s getting as much hype as he’s getting because he’s giving us a classic underdog-to-superstar story. And he’s doing it in New York, which magnifies stars and storylines times 20. Remember when Carmelo Anthony played his first game in Madison Square Garden? That entire outing was more anticipated and closely scrutinized than it would have been had it taken place anywhere besides the Big Apple. Basketball and New York have a certain relationship that can’t be duplicated, everyone knows that.
So no – Lin isn’t only being hyped because he’s Asian. He’s being hyped because he’s an underdog, a good guy, and a ridiculously nice basketball player who's doing big things in New York. But him being Asian isn’t a non-factor. And it’s important to recognize that.
What do you think of Mayweather’s comments?