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It’s not a Black and White Issue: Racial stereotyping in sport


Posted by Cags R on 14 February 2012 at 3:22 PM

In the past week Jeremy Lin has bounced onto the international stage and looks set to stay there; the Havard grad is causing shockwaves for having been an overlooked talent for so long. He wasn’t offered scholarships to colleges and was an undrafted player who’s been a solid bench-warmer for the Knicks until recent injuries in the usual starting line-up has opened an opportunity for him to start. Lin’s high school coach was quoted by the LA Times saying “If [Lin] was African American or Caucasian, it might have been a different deal.” His recent rise to stardom has drawn attention to the startling dominance of white and black Americans in the NBA and also highlighted the blinkered vision of talent scouts when it comes to ethnicity in sport.

Floyd Mayweather (outspoken welterweight boxer) has sent Twitter wild with his accusation that Lin is only getting press coverage because he is Asian; 'Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise'. Lin's story is not solely race based but the debate remains as to whether a black or caucasion player would have been overlooked in the same manner that Lin has been.

It’s not only basketball that is affected by racial stereotyping – we’re probably all guilty of it on some levels, subconsciously we have developed a culture which (as hard as it may pretend) is not colour blind. We are formed as athletes by the role models around us and let’s be honest – when you think Asian American athlete you probably imagined the table tennis team. Athletes like Jeremy Lin have to work that extra bit harder to get noticed for their talent rather than their ethnicity but thank god they keep working to change the face of sporting role models within their sport.

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    Nice blog post. Point nicely missed by Mayweather! Lin is being praised for playing well, nothing more. The point about the lack of Asian basketball players is a separate issue and one which is well worth highlighting.

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    I think you're right Joe - the achievement and the race debate are 2 separate achievements - Mayweather's definitely wrong when he says other players wouldn't get the same hype - Lin's earned the coverage through kicking ass at basketball!

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    I was in the midst of writing a long response to this post, when my browser unexpectedly refreshed and I lost it all. I will bullet point my main thoughts & save us all a bunch of time: • Great post - I agree with almost everything you have to say, and it is quite poignant. • Look at the parallel of many events throughout history involving race (and gender for that matter) on the field of play and how it has shaped social issues. From Jesse Owens to Arthur Ashe to Billie Jean King to Jim Brown to Dikembe Mutombo to Magic Johnson's "Announcement" ( You will see how sports has changed the way we think, and affects the spirit of the times. • "Money" Mayweather is one of the greatest boxers of all time - but I don't look to him for insight into civil rights issues. Let him read a few books while he serves his sentence for domestic violence this summer, and perhaps he'll have some better insight into social justice. • The #linsanity in the states has been blown out of proportion. Lin is a fantastic player, who has stepped in to fill the shoes of 2 injured, overpaid & under performing superstars. He may have been overlooked in the past because of his race & education (there are not many Ivy Leaguers of ANY race starting in the NBA - or any other professional sports league in America for that matter). Regardless, he is succeeding not just because he is a great shooter - but because he makes the players around him BETTER with sound fundamentals and PASSING. But it has only been 5 GAMES PEOPLE!!! • READ "The Blind Side." Not only will you be spared 2 hours of Sandra Bullock - but the book addresses both race & class and how they directly relate to the opportunities many athletes are given - or never given. IT ALSO addresses what author Michael Lewis refers to as "talent hidden in plain sight." A perfect analogy for Mr. Lin. • I am excited to see Lin succeed - but remember - it was international players like Mutombo & Parker who paved the way for Lin to even warm the bench. But maybe that is the Boston kid in me, a Celtics fan for life no matter where I live, being jealous he isn't across the court from Rondo at the 2 spot.

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    - "Money" Mayweather is one of the greatest boxers of all time - but I don't look to him for insight into civil rights issues. Let him read a few books while he serves his sentence for domestic violence this summer, and perhaps he'll have some better insight into social justice - love this comment.


    Great points James - though I shan't hear a word against Sandra Bullock! I think that the #linsanity has become such a huge event because people are reacting to change and difference: ( There's a sense of excitement about it and I think/hope we'll see an increase in ethnic diversity across many sports.

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