ESPN Apologizes for "*** in the Armor" Caption and Comment

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NOTE: This blogging software is replacing the ethnic slur with "***."  Please see BizCom in the News for the full story.

For 35 minutes, ESPN's mobile website showed the caption "*** in the Armor" under a photo of basketball superstar Jeremy Lin. An ESPN commentator also used the phrase related to Jeremy Lin, shown in the video below the website.  

  ESPN Lin

The Asian Americans Journalist Association (AAJA) wrote a letter including the following excerpt: 

"We at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) find it hard to fathom how such an offensive headline appeared on your publishing platforms. The phrase was even spoken on-air.

"We are glad ESPN has recognized its mistake, and we appreciate the quick apology for the transgression. 

"Many people, not just in Asian American communities, are shocked that a news company with a long tradition of excellence would use a racial epithet. It's particularly galling because of the weeks of discussion about Lin, his heritage and even the wave of outright racism surrounding his stardom.

"We are particularly concerned that an organization as large as yours did not have the proper checks in place to prevent the mistake. It is hard to fathom how editors on so many of your platforms failed to uphold your normally high standards.

"Of course, it disappoints us to see one of our most valued and committed partners in diversity stumble. As you well know, this incident does not live up to the Leadership in Diversity Award that AAJA bestowed on ESPN in 2010. But we trust that you will transform this incident into a teachable moment."

In a statement, ESPN said, 

“We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.”

In a tweet, Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president for editorial, print and digital media, posted,

“There’s no defense for the indefensible. All we can offer are our apologies, sincere though incalculably inadequate.”

Let's hope we get more of an explanation from ESPN. How does this ethnic slur get through an editorial process?

Discussion Starters:

  • How do you think the phrase was intended? Was it an innocent mistake, planned as a joke, or something else?
  • How do you think this happened? ESPN has writers and people who read the written comments. How could this slip by?
  • What is your assessment of ESPN's apology so far?
  • Read the Asian Americans Journalist Association's entire letter. What are the strongest and weakest arguments?
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