Pavan Thimmaiah 0

Promote Responsible Reporting - Stop Use of Racially Offensive Language

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Dear ESPN, Jeremy Lin's story is a great story that has captured the imagination of millions of sports fan, both casual and die hard. Its great story about an underdog who has burst onto the national scene from almost complete obscurity to help an ailing franchise become relevant again. In his ability to overcome great obstacles, he has inspired millions of others that they too can do the same. However, Jeremy Lin's story has also brought to light a very dark and ugly reality - racism still exists. It exists in what is now known as modern racism - a more subtle form of prejudicial behavior. While difficult to see, it is often more damaging. The examples of this are no more powerful than those found in our own media - a media that supposed to be unbiased and serve as a watchdog to society. The most recent example comes from a story posted on your mobile website about the Knicks and Jeremy Lin's first loss entitled "Chink in the Armor". This same "Chink in the Armor" line was also used by one of your own Sportscasters. "Chink in the Armor" is a clear and deliberate play on words using a very derogatory word in reference to Lin's ethnicity. 'Chink' is one of the most hurtful and damaging words used against the Asian population in the English language. Many would assert that it is THE worst racial slur that one could use against those of Chinese/Asian descent. That word has been the center of numerous violent and discriminatory acts and has been a source of pain for millions of Asian Americans for generations. ESPN's decision to use the word is not only disappointing, it’s offensive. While ESPN is also in the business of 'entertainment', racist word play does not qualify as entertainment. Any slightly informed person knows that this was not an accident nor was it done without intention. ESPN writers and editors, both who are highly educated, are well aware of the implications of the word 'Chink' in today’s society. In digital media (and most of print media), the headline is what draws attention and hits. Editors and writers try to maximize visitors and shock value with their headlines. Much thought and deliberation go into any headline before publishing it. Perhaps it was written in a very poor attempt at humor. Whatever the case, it is never acceptable to use such words in this context. If something similarly offensive that was written in reference to African Americans, Hispanics, Christians, etc., I'm sure it would have died in the editing room before it even reached the general public and would've happened without hesitation. Furthermore, ESPN's statement in the aftermath raises concerns as to how serious you are taking this incident. Here are ESPN's statements: Initial Statement: "Last night,’s mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET. The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET. We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake." First, a writer/editor posted the headline, not's mobile site. Second, there is also no admission of wrong-doing or acknowledgement that this may have been an intentionally offensive posting, just an acknowledgement of a 'mistake'. ESPN does not even acknowledge that this action was not representative of their company's values, leading us to believe that the problem is institutionalized within the company itself. ESPN Statement Follow Up On Lin Comments (posted on on 2/19) At ESPN we are aware of three offensive and inappropriate comments made on ESPN outlets during our coverage of Jeremy Lin. Saturday we apologized for two references. We have since learned of a similar reference Friday on ESPN Radio New York. The incidents were separate and different. We have engaged in a thorough review of all three and have taken the following action: • The ESPN employee responsible for our Mobile headline has been dismissed. • The ESPNEWS anchor has been suspended for 30 days. • The radio commentator is not an ESPN employee. We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN. Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future.” Again, this does not actually acknowledge any wrong doing and just references the previous statement as an apology. ‘Mistakes’ can be accidental, such as a typo. Writing and saying “Chink in the Armor” on three different occasions is wrong. ESPN appropriately punished those most responsible for the transgressions, but if you do not acknowledge any wrong doing, what are you punishing them for? Negligence? Poor judgment? It is not clear and seems they are punished more for the public’s REACTION to the offense than the offense itself. Furthermore, it is hard to believe that those people acted alone, independent of other writers and executives at ESPN, especially given the number of instances this phrase was used exclusively on your network’s airwaves in a 3 day span. Lastly, while Spiro Dedes is an employee of MSG, MSG is using ESPN’s airwaves. In the end, the content of the broadcast is a reflection of ESPN, and should be ESPN’s responsibility. This petition represents people who subscribe to/use your service along with all variety of races, professions and walks of life. We send this petition to you as a peaceful and professional attempt to resolve this issue and raise awareness of the severity of it. We all would like to see ESPN take their role as the leader in sports entertainment and reporting seriously, and be the standard bearer for excellence rather than an example of incompetence and ignorance. ESPN, given their prominence, it is in the unique position of being able to influence the world of sports reporting. If the leader in sports entertainment follows a higher standard, surely others will follow. ESPN should not do just the bare-minimum, but take the initiative and not tolerate the reporting methods that result in the use of racial slang, however ‘innocent’ they may appear. This chain of racial slurs used against Asians in the sports media needs to stop, and it should start with the leader – ESPN. To this point, it has only been perpetuated by ESPN. In regards to this specific issue, we ask that ESPN take responsibility for actual wrong doing in their use of the word “Chink”, not just refer to it as a ‘mistake’. ESPN also should take more initiative to remedy the comments made on their air by Spiro Dedes. It is simply not acceptable to look the other way and push responsibility of this to another entity. ESPN is surely powerful enough to influence what is broadcast on their own airwaves. ESPN should do more to work with MSG in at least working out a resolution. ESPN touts the Knick games as part of ESPN’s broadcast. As a New York resident, I hear the “Linsanity Continues” advertisements for ESPN radio broadcasts of the Knicks, and in none of them is there a disclaimer that ESPN takes no responsibility for the contact of the broadcast because it is really MSG’s broadcast. You use the Knicks’ success to better your own brand and bring in advertising revenue. It is only fair to expect that you take credit and responsibility for all aspects of your broadcast. Until we receive a satisfactory response to this petition, we will continue to write to you and raise awareness of your decision not to act via the social media, online outlets and other media outlets. We will also continue to use other media outlets that employ more responsible methods of reporting. We would like to see the sport world's biggest media outlet take proper responsibility for their actions and lead by example. I write this letter as neither Chinese/East Asian nor a Knick fan. I write it because I am increasingly concerned with the casual use of racially charged words in the light of the Jeremy Lin story. While ESPN is the subject of this letter, ESPN is certainly not the only perpetrator of racial indignities in the media. As a minority myself, I have been denied service at public places and government offices, been the target of racially motivated attacks both verbally and physically and been the target of racially biased treatment - all within this decade. I had to grow up with words as hurtful as 'Chink' being hurled at me since birth and continue to deal with it to this day. My closest friends, many of whom are Caucasian, never have to walk into a place and worry about someone attacking them or denying them service because of how they look; as is the case with modern racism, the attacks are subtle but no less damaging. The use of racial slurs in the media only perpetuates the use of these words and stereotypes in society. I hope with this petition that ESPN will take the responsibility of reporting more seriously and lead by example. In doing so, I hope we can enjoy sports for what they should be - a celebration of HUMAN achievement. Thank you for your time. Pavan Thimmaiah

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