Translated and compiled by Bing-sheng Lee

On April 5, a group of NBA fans compiled and posted a video that allegedly shows how Jeremy Lin, the first NBA basketball player of Taiwanese descent, was mistreated on the court by the league’s referees.

The video juxtaposes several examples of normal calls made on players who committed fouls on non-Asian players with a series of cases where seemingly biased and unfair decisions were made when it was Lin who was fouled.

In normal cases, a flagrant foul is called when a player makes unnecessary hard contact that might pose risks or result in injuries of another player. However, in the video, there are multiple cases where the referees failed to issue a flagrant foul, or any kind of foul at all, to players who committed obvious hard fouls against Lin.

The footage suggests the NBA referees might have unfairly treated Lin since he started his career in the league five years ago.

The video went viral after being uploaded on YouTube. So far, nearly 900,000 viewers have watched the video.

Some fans reacted strongly to how Lin was treated as shown in the video. A netizen says, “The NBA should be embarrassed.” Another says, “So glad someone has made this video. It’s disturbing how much referees are biased against Jeremy Lin.”

In response to the video, Lin said he appreciates the fans for pointing out the issue and raising the awareness of the issue. He also acknowledged that incidents shown in the video did happen, but said he does not have any control over the issue.

Lin did not mention racism in his comments and he tried to downplay the suggestions that he is being mistreated. He said he is uncertain whether the treatment of him has always been the same or if it’s just something that happened recently.

Lin said, “When you’re in the heat of the game, how it looks isn’t always how it feels. I’m going through everything and you take contact every play.”

“People who make decisions are going to see it or whatever. So at this point, just keep playing,” added Lin.

Michael Bass, NBA’s executive director of communications, issued a statement saying that all the calls in the video were reviewed in the end and none of them was deemed a flagrant foul after the league examined the plays from multiple angles.

Bass said, “Referees do make mistakes, which means they miss calls that should have been made. When that occurs, we collect the data and provide referees with feedback to ensure improvement.”

As the video spread online, a number of media outlets have criticized the NBA referees for showing anti-Asian racism.

Deadspin writes that the implication of the video is very obvious and “Lin doesn’t get treated fairly by referees because he is Asian.”

The Huffington Post says that the content of the video is very convincing and seems to “undermine the supposed unbiased nature of NBA referees.”

Ronnie Nunn, a 19-year NBA referee, also commented on the video. He said he does not think the referees are discriminatory when making those calls, but considers those referees “incompetent” because the mistakes were obvious.

Photo Credit: AP / 達志影像

Photo Credit: AP / 達志影像

Past racism against Asian athletes in American sports

This is not the first time that racism against Asians in American sports has been brought up in public.

In an online interview in 2011, Lin mentioned one of his reasons to play in the NBA is to break the racial stereotypes of Asians in sports.

“I feel like Asians in general don’t get the respect that we may deserve whether it comes to sports, basketball, or whatever it might be,” said Lin.

In 2012, when “Linsanity” was at its highest, ESPN once posted an article titled, “Chink in the Armor,” when reporting on a game in which the Knicks lost with Lin being one of the players on the court. The title was widely considered a racist pun.

The network later apologized for the offensive article, fired the author and suspended the anchor that used the phrase in the broadcast for 30 days.

Floyd Mayweather, a retired American professional boxer, also made a dismissive comment on Lin’s success. He said, “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 praise.”

In 2013, Lin was invited to join CBS’s 60 Minutes show, during which he talked about being an Asian athlete in the US.

He said, “Well, the obvious thing in my mind is that I was Asian-American which, you know, is a whole different issue. I think that was a barrier. I mean, it’s just a stereotype.”

Yao Ming, a retired Chinese NBA player, was also a target of racism while he was playing.

Before Yao made his NBA debut in 2002, the Miami Heats passed out thousands of fortune cookies, which are very common in Chinese restaurants across the US, to the spectators. Many took the act as racist at the time.

Shaquille O’Neal, a retired all-star center, once taunted Yao by mocking the Chinese language. In 2002, he told a reporter in an interview, “Tell Yao Ming, Ching-chong-yang-way-ah-soh.” Many Asian Americans thought the comment was offensive.

Daily News reported in 2014 that stereotypes of Asian athletes remain a major issue in US sports. The website wrote that Asian athletes are sometimes overlooked by college recruiters and professional scouts “simply because of their names.”

Edited by Olivia Yang

“WATCH: As video of Jeremy Lin being brutally fouled goes viral, fans claim NBA refs treat him unfairly because he’s Asian” (South China Morning News)
“Fans Wonder Why Jeremy Lin Doesn’t Get More Flagrant Foul Calls; Lin Thinks They Have A Point” (Deadspin)
“Is Hornets guard Jeremy Lin slighted by NBA officials when it comes to foul calls?” (The Charlotte Observer)
“These NBA Fans Are Trying To Get Jeremy Lin Some Damn Respect” (The Huffington Post)
“Yao Ming Has Doubters, But He’s Unquestionably A Hall Of Famer” (The Huffington Post)
“Yao Ming, the first Asian superstar in the NBA, is no joke as a Hall of Famer” (Daily News)
“Jeremy Lin row reveals deep-seated racism against Asian Americans” (The Guardian)
”ESPN crackdown after ‘racist’ Jeremy Lin pun“ (The Telegraph)
“10 places where racism is still a major issue in sports” (Daily News)