Jim Mone, AP
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 | 3:27 p.m.
Last week, Floyd Mayweather Jr. told the world to stop the Linsanity. He tweeted that while Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin is a good player, he has only captured our attention “because he’s Asian.” Mayweather explained: “Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.” The Internet exploded. But Mayweather’s comment was tame compared to what preceded it. After Lin outscored Kobe Bryant on February 10, a columnist for FoxSports.com tweeted that some lucky lady was going to feel “a couple inches of pain.” He apologized days later, just in time for ESPN to fire one employee and suspend another for referencing a “chink in the armor” in their coverage of Lin. Bill Plaschke of the LA Times asserted that this marginalization of Lin’s story actually serves to illustrate its real importance: “[Lin] has forced America to realize it has become too comfortable compartmentalizing Asian Americans with a list of stereotypes that are misguided, mean-spirited and just plain wrong.” Sports, Plaschke writes, have a unique way of pushing society toward self-realization and change. But how many of those pushes come from conflict? If Lin’s ethnicity were different—if this conversation on race had not been ignited—his achievements would still make news. But they might not make us more aware.