Asian American Journalists Association Jeremy Lin Guidelines

This is hilarious and sad that it’ll actually help people. Surely there’s meetings set up at some newsrooms.

Here are the guidelines:


1. Jeremy Lin is Asian American, not Asian (more specifically, Taiwanese American). It’s an important distinction and one that should be considered before any references to former NBA players such as Yao Ming and Wang Zhizhi, who were Chinese. Lin’s experiences were fundamentally different than people who immigrated to play in the NBA. Lin progressed through the ranks of American basketball from high school to college to the NBA, and to characterize him as a foreigner is both inaccurate and insulting.

2. Lin’s path to Madison Square Garden: More than 300 division schools passed on him. Harvard University has had only three other graduates go on to the NBA, the most recent one being in the 1950s. No NBA team wanted Lin in the draft after he graduated from Harvard.

3. Journalists don’t assume that African American players identify with NBA players who emigrated from Africa. The same principle applies with Asian Americans. It’s fair to ask Lin whether he looked up to or took pride in the accomplishments of Asian players. He may have. It’s unfair and poor journalism to assume he did.

4. Lin is not the first Asian American to play in the National Basketball Association. Raymond Townsend, who’s of Filipino descent, was a first-round choice of the Golden State Warriors in the 1970s. Rex Walters, who is of Japanese descent, was a first-round draft pick by the New Jersey Nets out of the University of Kansas in 1993 and played seven seasons in the NBA; Walters is now the coach at University of San Francisco. Wat Misaka is believed to have been the first Asian American to play professional basketball in the United States. Misaka, who’s of Japanese descent, appeared in three games for the New York Knicks in the 1947-48 season when the Knicks were part of the Basketball Association of America, which merged with the NBA after the 1948-49 season.


“CHINK”: Pejorative; do not use in a context involving an Asian person on someone who is Asian American. Extreme care is needed if using the well-trod phrase “chink in the armor”; be mindful that the context does not involve Asia, Asians or Asian Americans. (The appearance of this phrase with regard to Lin led AAJA MediaWatch to issue statement to ESPN, which subsequently disciplined its employees.)

DRIVING: This is part of the sport of basketball, but resist the temptation to refer to an “Asian who knows how to drive.”

EYE SHAPE: This is irrelevant. Do not make such references if discussing Lin’s vision.

FOOD: Is there a compelling reason to draw a connection between Lin and fortune cookies, takeout boxes or similar imagery? In the majority of news coverage, the answer will be no.

MARTIAL ARTS: You’re writing about a basketball player. Don’t conflate his skills with judo, karate, tae kwon do, etc. Do not refer to Lin as “Grasshopper” or similar names associated with martial-arts stereotypes.

“ME LOVE YOU LIN TIME”: Avoid. This is a lazy pun on the athlete’s name and alludes to the broken English of a Hollywood caricature from the 1980s.

“YELLOW MAMBA”: This nickname that some have used for Lin plays off the “Black Mamba” nickname used by NBA star Kobe Bryant. It should be avoided. Asian immigrants in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries were subjected to discriminatory treatment resulting from a fear of a “Yellow Peril” that was touted in the media, which led to legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act.


  1. Luis Lo
    23 February 12, 3:33pm

    Asians like us have been secretly giving names to other races. I swear… we come up with names for almost every race. The reasons why Asians tend to take the stereotype silently most of the time is because we ALL have been doing these for centuries. I think calling each other names is actually fun. I called my previous German housemate Nein ever since he started calling me a Chink, but we still love each other~ I steal his bockwurst and he steals my kung pao chicken.
    I’m a strong believer in equality, but I simply don’t believe in “leaving rooms” to “let” others insult you. I think we have to twist the whole racism thing backward by “nullifying” all racial terms.
    I think the idea of “hating each other equally” is more logical than “censoring word-usage”. Language is merely just a tool of communication; and at the end of the day, you are the person who would interpret the meanings.
    Why be afraid of touching the wound when it doesn’t hurt anymore.

  2. 24 February 12, 4:51am

    TOPIC: Reporting on Jeremy Lin

    Resisting Defamation since 1989 has worked to let everyone know that the diverse white Americans are, in fact, diverse and Americans, and that any label given to us that papers over both those critical elements in our identity is bigoted. The diverse white Americans do have the same right as members of of other demographics have, after all, to name ourselves.

    We were disappointed this week to see that the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) claims to have the right to name us “Caucasian” which has obviously been deliberately chosen to smother awareness in various segments of our multi-racial society about our diversity and our nationality. In a word, the AAJA told us our name based on its claim to supremacy.

    The AAJA decided that we were “Caucasian” in this sentence: “Stop to think: Would a similar statement be made about an athlete who is Caucasian, African American or Latino?” What a supremacist insult.

    Let’s compare “Asian American” with “Caucasian” to illustrate AAJA bigotry.

    The word “Asian” explicitly invites awareness of diversity, including as that continent does national origins from Turkey and Israel in its west all the way across the world’s largest land mass to Korea and Japan. “Caucasian” is explicitly designed to smother our diversity.

    The word “American” explicitly claims nationality, while “Caucasian” is explicitly designed to smother our nationality.

    “Caucasian” is very clearly chosen as a label for us by the AAJA because it is a label that strips us of our diversity and nationality. The label reflects more racism, verbal thuggery, and bigotry. We can name ourselves, thank you very much.

  3. 24 February 12, 8:43am

    [...] Lin. Pro-tip: don’t use “chink in the armor” in reference to someone of Asian descent. More tips if you need [...]

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