Asian American group wants no ‘fortune cookie,’ ‘grasshopper’ jokes in Jeremy Lin coverage

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Following several instances of what it said was insensitive media coverage of New York Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin, the Asian American Journalists Association has issued an “advisory” for journalists about how — and how not — to cover Lin.

“In the past weeks, as more news outlets report on Lin, his game and his story, AAJA has noticed factual inaccuracies about Lin’s background as well as an alarming number of references that rely on stereotypes about Asians or Asian Americans,” AAJA explained in the advisory issued Wednesday.

The group offered reporters a list of guidelines, facts, and “Danger Zones” to avoid in their coverage of Lin, Asian-American NBA players, and Asian-Americans in general.

In the memo, AAJA explains that Lin is not Asian, but rather Asian American, specifically, Taiwanese American — an important distinction. The organization notes that Lin is not the first Asian American NBA player.

The “Danger Zones” journalists should avoid is a list of puns, analogies, and jokes about Asian Americans and includes many that have not yet been used in basketball coverage.

Still, journalists should take note that the AAJA would prefer if reporters never use the pun “ME LOVE YOU LIN TIME.”


“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.

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