Asian Athletes Knocking Down the Walls
In 2012, Jeremy Lin stormed the court with the New York Knicks, and when he was given a chance to play he wowed the world. He shocked others not just because he was a new face, but because he was also full Asian American, unlike many of the other players in the NBA. Prior to that day, Jeremy Lin was not a household name by any means, but the publicity he gained also brought negative jokes towards him. The stereotypes were of Asian Americans were brought up, and instead of being glorified some people decided to mock and joke with those stereotypes. Jeremy’s journey to the headlines has been a journey of fighting Orientalism, but also of using Orientalism to rise through the ranks. Similar to him are other Asian athletes, such as Yao Ming, Manny Pacquiao, and others. All have overcome an image created for them by others, and they have defined their own definition of what it means to be Asian.
Jeremy was the player that never got things easy, no matter what his stats were or how he shined on court. In high school, he was a star athlete, but due to his meager frame and his appearance, he was overlooked by many schools. Jeremy’s mother stated that if people saw him outperforming other players, those other players would be deemed not-so-good, as if there was no such as thing as Jeremy being great player, but just the standard. When he did reach through the knocks, his own success was criticized and race insults base on stereotypes were brought up.
For Manny Pacquiao, he remained the underdog for many big fights, but ultimately achieved success. That did not stop insults from hitting him, especially from athlete such as Floyd Mayweather Jr. Floyd himself was shown in a video going through a racist tirade against Pacquiao with three general ideas of Asians:
- Asians are interchangeable
- Asian men are not masculine
- It’s okay to make these stereotypes because it’s funny
These are ideas that reverberate through many minds of Americans, even in popular culture and entertainment. For Yao Ming, players like Shaquille O’Neal took jabs at him by insulting his language. Because of the way society is built and with Orientalism, many do think it is okay to insult other Asians like this. However, Asian athletes have stayed respectful to their values and not insulted back at these athletes, or insult other athletes in general. They continue to work hard get back at others in a respectful manner in sport. Kobe Bryant was completely unaware of Lin, and somehow didn’t seem to care much. Jeremy acknowledged that, and to combat that lack of care for him, he proved himself on court.
That seems to be the method for respect amongst Asian athletes, and in my opinion, what should be the definition of the Asian athlete. Asian athletes don’t hit the personal, and use their own abilities to show respect and to gain respect. They break the ideas that Mayweather brought up, and are continuing to break ground. It’s hard to say how long the first impression of Asian athletes will be those ideas, but with players like Yao Ming, Manny Pacquiao, and Jeremy Lin, definitions are changing and walls are being knocked down.