Friday, February 24, 2012

Political Correctness Running Amok (Again)

ESPN is now the clear front-runner for the T.A.H. Duke Lacrosse Fire, Ready Aim Award given annually to an organization or person who rushes to action in order to fend off public criticism.  You may recall that officials at Duke bowed to various groups and dismissed their LAX coach almost immediately after Strippergate based on allegations that would later prove to be false.

Now ESPN seems to have rushed to judgment and unfairly fired Anthony Federico for his much talked about “Chink In The Armor” headline regarding New York Knick Jeremy Lin’s nine turnovers in a recent loss to the Hornets.  

TIME OUT: Here’s what we’ve learned in the blogshpere.  People read the headline and a few words and then form an opinion prior to leaving comments over at reprint sites like Yardbarker and Bleacher Report impugning the writer’s character without actually reading the article or endeavoring to understand the point of said dissertation. Seriously, that’s what happens…

With that as preface, we will state the CONCLUSION of this editorial upfront:  ESPN “unfairly” fired Federico based on the simple fact that they didn’t fire their anchor that said the same thing.  

(Al Diaz/AP Photo)
We aren’t condoning what Frederico wrote or what ESPN anchor Max Breto (and Knicks play-by-play guy Speros Dedos) said.  We aren’t trying to justify it, we are simply saying that a mistake was made and the punishment should be consistent and that “intent” should certainly be part of the equation.  What is good for the editor’s goose should be good for the anchor’s gander.

That said, there are people who think that ESPN should have fired Federico. We are not those people.  The firing seems a bit over the top especially when compared to the penalties given other members of the media who made the same mistake on the same night.  In each case, the offensive language appears to have been an honest, albeit stupid, mistake.

We say get all three some sensitivity training so he doesn’t do it again, and move on.  ESPN suspended for 30 days the anchor who used a similar (if not the same line), but fired Federico.  That simply Doesn’t fly here.  Neither should have been fired unless they used the term purposefully as a racial slur and it would seem that neither did for a variety of obvious reasons (like not wanting to get fired!).

That said, there are still those who endorse ESPN’s firing and plenty of others using the story to make various headlines.

California Congresswoman Judy CHu called the headline “appalling and offensive” and said, “The ‘c’ word is for Asian- Americans like the 'n' word is for African-Americans.”  

No one would argue her point, and it’s hard to find a similar example.  Joe Eskenazi of the San Francisco Weekly, did make this comparison: 

“...It's a lot easier to imagine a late-shift editor inadvertently writing a racially charged headline at 2:30 a.m. than carefully plotting out surefire career suicide. In that manner, l'affaire d' Chink in the Armor harks to the 1999 Niggardly Incident. 

(Andrew Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
You may recall that one. A bit over a decade ago, David Howard -- an overly erudite aide to Washington, D.C. mayor Anthony Williams -- used the term "niggardly" during a public meeting when discussing a fund's meager budget. 

This was, technically, apropos: "Niggardly" essentially means "stingy." But for Howard, who is white, to use this term in mixed company was unwise and unnecessary. He should have just said "stingy." 

Howard resigned, and Williams -- under heavy political pressure -- accepted his resignation. However, in a rare instance of everything really working out in the end, the media and general public overreacted to this overreaction, and Williams was successfully pressured to hire Howard back.” 

So much for the history lesson.

A few days ago, when Congresswoman Chu learned that Frederico admitted he had used the line in at least 100 headlines, she said:

“If he was using it all those times, that is extremely sad. The word was used since the 1880s to demean Chinese Americans and to deprive them of rights, and it is used on playgrounds specifically to humiliate and to offend Asian-Americans. So I don’t know where he's been all this time.” 

Well, we are guessing the 28-year-old Frederico’s been in a world where he doesn’t have any prejudice against Asian-Americans and where he only ever used the word “chink” in close proximity to the word “armor.”  We would make the same claim.  We haven’t heard “chink” as a derogatory term since the 1970‘s, but we live in the Mid-Atlantic -- not the Northeast or on the West Coast.  Note that even Chu said the word “was” used, not “is” used.  

Some words simply go away over time with “niggardly” being a prime example.  Looks like “chink” is about to be retired as well, and we aren’t saying that’s a bad thing, just pointing out how the language changes based on current social norms and prevailing moral standards.    

Back to the main point, the firing of Frederico.  When the New York Post makes sense, you know the world is going mad(der).  They pointed out, among other things, that Federico, Bretos and Dedos all used the same term the SAME NIGHT which demonstrated, among some more things, how overused the term is by sport’s media. Not to mention the good journalism point that the NYP makes: “Chink in the armor’ is just one of a million clichés you should avoid for no other reason than that they’re clichés.”

(Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)
In retrospect, it was a poor choice of words and everybody who used the phrase should take note and edit accordingly.  As several have pointed out, it’s like saying “bomb” in an airport. In this day and age, you simply don’t do that. 

All of them should have connected the dots.  They didn’t. They effed up. They all apologized.  One was fired, one was suspended and one was scolded.  That doesn’t add up.

If he’s telling the truth, and we assume he is, over in the plus column he lists 1) befriending and rescuing a homeless guy; 2) working in a orphanage in Haiti; 3) adopting an Alzheimer’s patient and 4) conducting a fundraiser for a buddies premature children among other Boy Scout-worthy deeds.

So, he’s not a bad guy…

In addition, Lin didn’t seem terribly upset about the poor choice of words either saying “I don't think it was on purpose or whatever, but they have apologized and so from my end I don't care anymore,”

Mistakes were made. Good people were offended. ESPN over-reacted.  End of story.   

Just sayin’.

Play ball.

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