On Feb. 25 Jeremy Lin — arguably the most prominent Asian American in professional basketball — revealed that he had been called “coronavirus” by another player during a game in the NBA’s developmental league. Lin broke this news via a Facebook post, in which he also shined a spotlight on the recent and ongoing racism against the Asian-American community in the United States.
“Being a 9 year NBA veteran doesn’t protect me from being called ‘coronavirus’ on the court,” Lin wrote. “Being a man of faith doesn’t mean I don’t fight for justice, for myself and for others.”
Unfortunately, this racism isn’t new to him. During his time playing basketball at Harvard University, Lin was once called “c—k” multiple times during an Ivy League game at Cornell University. In 2017 Lin described the incident in a podcast appearance on “Outside Shot with Randy Foye.”
“My teammate told my coaches (that) they were calling Jeremy a c—k the whole first half,” Lin said on the podcast. “I didn’t say anything, because when that stuff happens, I kind of just, I go and bottle up — where I go into turtle mode and don’t say anything and just internalize everything.”
Lin further states in his Facebook post that the Asian-American community at large is fed up with experiencing discrimination.
“Something is changing in this generation of Asian Americans. We are tired of being told that we don’t experience racism, we are tired of being told to keep our heads down and not make trouble,” Lin wrote.
If nothing else, Lin’s Facebook post highlights his growth as a social justice activist. In light of the coronavirus and the growing hate aimed at the Asian community, Lin learned to use his experiences with racism — experiences he previously internalized — as opportunities to call for change.
Lin has refused to reveal which player called him “coronavirus” to the disappointment of many. However, he detailed his thought process in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon last Tuesday.
“To me, it’s not about trying to take somebody down or anything like that. It’s about building awareness, and it’s about promoting solidarity,” Lin said. “I think at the end of the day, what I would love to see, is that people spend more time listening and hearing than judging and condemning.”
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr applauded Lin for speaking out, calling his words “really powerful.” Kerr added that the recent rise in anti-Asian racism is no accident.
“It’s just so ridiculous and obviously spawned by many people, including our former president (Donald Trump), as it relates to the coronavirus originating in China,” Kerr said.
Kerr is specifically pointing to former-President Trump’s blaming of China for the origin and spread of COVID-19 by often labeling it the “Chinese virus”. When Lemon asked Lin about his thoughts on the former president’s actions, Lin echoed Kerr’s sentiment.
“It definitely empowered or exacerbated an issue that was already there,” Lin said.
Following Trump’s coronavirus-related Twitter attacks on China last March, Lin tweeted at the former President
“I wish you would powerfully support the vulnerable people that will suffer due to our mismanagement of this virus, including those that will be affected by the racism you’re empowering,” Lin tweeted.
Lin’s predictions, unfortunately, were correct. In August, the United Nations reported that following the outbreak of the coronavirus, attacks against Asian Americans reached “an alarming level” in the United States. Nearly 2,000 racist incidents against Asian Americans had been reported over an eight-week period in the United States between the months of March and May of 2020. The reports detailed incidents that included people being spat on as well as stabbings and beatings.
To combat this, for every three-pointer he makes this season, Lin says he will donate money to organizations that support cross-cultural work in hopes of achieving his ultimate goal.
“I would love to see cross-cultural solidarity,” said Lin in the same interview with CNN. “I would love to see people supporting anti-racism, not just in one people group, but across the board.”
Conner Parker covers rowing. Contact him at [email protected].