Jeremy Lin manhood size discussions, which have erupted on the Internet, reveal a racist subtext to Linsanity, and, in the words of the Asian American Journalists Association, have "debased one of sports' feel-good moments."
Rumors about Jeremy Lin's manhood size, which include speculation about how "big" he is and his ability or inability to please a woman, have swirled online and in private conversation ever since he broke onto the scene as the New York Knicks' new 6, foot, 3 Taiwanese-American point guard.
A number of stereotypes exist about Asian-Americans, but one of the most bruising to a young man's self-esteem is the oft-repeated rumor that Asian-Americans are less adequate in the bedroom.
And these assertions have been flying ever since Jeremy Lin first took the NBA by storm earlier this month, even reaching the Twitter account of FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock on Feb. 11, the day after Lin picked up a career-high 38 points and led the Knicks to a trouncing of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at Madison Square Garden.
Whitlock tweeted the following: "Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple of inches of pain tonight."
He took down the tweet, but not before a screenshot was captured and preserved forever as evidence of his prejudice.
The Asian American Journalists Association responded with an open letter to Whitlock that called on him to apologize for the thoughtless remarks:
"Outrage doesn't begin to describe the reaction of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) to your unnecessary and demeaning tweet of Feb. 10," the letter read. "Let's not pretend we don't know to what you were referring. The attempt at humor --- and we hope that is all it was -- fell flat."
Two days later Whitlock issued a rambling, odd semi-apology, stating:
"I then gave in to another part of my personality - my immature, sophomoric, comedic nature. It's been with me since birth, a gift from my mother and honed as a child listening to my godmother's Richard Pryor albums. I still want to be a standup comedian. The couple-inches-of-pain tweet overshadowed my sincere celebration of Lin's performance and the irony that the stereotype applies to pot-bellied, overweight male sports writers, too. As the Asian American Journalist[s] Association pointed out, I debased a feel-good sports moment. For that, I'm truly sorry."
Whitlock's famous tweet even got him mockingly mentioned on "Saturday Night Live" during a skit lambasting the race-based coverage of Linsanity. By now the storm over Whitlock has largely passed.
But the underlying issue, namely the fact that prominent Asian-Americans are often subject to the ridicule that arises out of the stereotype that they are not as well-endowed as men of other backgrounds, persists.
And the issue has been compounded by the fact that Lin is a basketball player, a demographic that because of their often-tall stature is often stereotyped as having the opposite condition, meaning that he is being subjected to a wide swath of rumors, conjecture and discussion about an issue that would not so thoroughly plague, say, a white outfielder for the New York Yankees.
Twitter user @fitbottomgirl weighed in with her own assumption, which should serve as representative of the many such guesses, rumors and opinions that have been voiced online since Linsanity began.
"Asians typically have tiny junk, my burning question how big is Jeremy Lin? My guess is he's E-lin-ven inches," she tweeted on Feb. 19.
It's this kind of conjecture that is unfairly thrown disproportionately at athletes of Asian heritage, and members of the Asian community in New York City say that this is not a new storyline.
Peter Tu, executive director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, a group for Chinese-Americans business owners based in the majority-Chinese New York City neighborhood of Flushing, Queens, says that jealousy over Lin's rapid ascension to super-stardom is behind a lot of the comments. Tu, an immigrant, said the manhood size discussions have caused considerable disappointment and anger in the New York Chinese-American community.
"We become very upset when we hear something like that type of talk. This has really offended people's feelings here," Tu said Wednesday. "We are a little bit angry about people's talk. But the past is the past, and people already gave the punishment to the reporter, and we wish that everybody could respect the culture and the people."
He added that though the remarks are hurtful, Asian-Americans should make a point to coalesce in support of Lin as well as the entire New York Knicks organization if they want to see him and future Asian-American players avoid insults and hurtful conjecture.
"Everybody attacks him because in just one night he became a model, and a lot of people are jealous of him. The Asian people pay too much attention to him only, without thinking of other people on the team, and that will lead to Jeremy Lin becoming an enemy of everybody," Tu said. "So I think the Asian people should become fans of the New York Knicks not just Jeremy Lin, and I think everything will go smoothly from here."
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