NBA champion Jeremy Lin has said that he is unapologetic if his activism will cost him the chance of a return to the league.

Lin, who has been outspoken about the rise of anti-Asian violence and prejudice in the US, was on a Paley Impact round table, “Media’s Role in Combating Hate and Violence Towards Asians and Pacific Islanders”.

“I’m going to be honest. In the situation that I’m in right now trying to get back to the NBA, it’s like, do I talk about this?

“Do I talk about this activism stuff because it’s seen as a distraction and it’s like people are saying, even national reporters are saying, ‘It’s hurting Jeremy’s case for getting back into the NBA by talking about this stuff.’

“One thing I’m trying to learn as I get older is I gotta be more unapologetic and just be who I need to be and say what I need to say.”

The NBA free agent has so far been overlooked for a contract, despite starring in the G League for the Santa Cruz Warriors.

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Lin appeared alongside Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu, Fresh Off The Boat creator Eddie Huang actors Ken Jeong and Olivia Munn, Fox Business correspondent Susan Li and Charles Yu, the author of Interior Chinatown .

Lin was asked by moderator Cassidy Hubbarth of his regret at not breaking down more barriers for the next generation of Asian-Americans during “Linsanity”, his breakout with the New York Knicks in 2012.

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“For me when everything happened with the Knicks and I was playing, for me everyone was talking about the history, this hasn’t been done before, this hasn’t happened in X amount of years, we haven’t seen a player like this in 60 years.

“To me, I didn’t care about any of that. I’m a competitor born and raised. This is my craft and I’m great at it. Respect me for me.

“I was just naive. I didn’t understand how systemic it was, how subtle it was, and even when people would do things really overtly, whether its tweets about penis size or crazy stuff, I would just be like, ‘Oh it’s OK, he’s ignorant’ or ‘Oh its OK, he didn’t understand’ and that was kind of just my way of dealing with it because when I was dealing with racism, which happened all the time in terms of on the court, it was just I can’t focus on that.”

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Even this season, Lin was called “coronavirus” by another player while playing in the G League bubble.

“I gotta be me, and I have to as great as I can be. And so as a competitor, as a basketball player, I was just like, I’m going for my next opponent, and that’s all I could really think about.

“As I’ve gotten older and I’ve started to really understand these issues, it’s not really about me and validation as a basketball player any more. It’s really about the next generation.”

Lin said he sees the same things that happened to him happening to this generation of Asian-American athletes.

“It’s like playing basketball with ankle weights on, you’re trying to compete against other people and you have weights on. That’s what it’s like for an Asian kid.

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“It’s different for me now where I am at in my career and what I am trying to do. In many ways I feel like I am trying to make up for lost time or just the naiveness of not understanding the situation that was at hand.

“It’s sad because growing up, everyone always called me Yao Ming, and then now all these (Asian) players are being called Jeremy Lin.

“You would think that makes me feel good. That makes me feel terrible because I don’t really care about them being called me … it’s more the fact they can’t be them.”

Lin was also asked about ESPN’s infamous “Chink in the Armour” headline and his experience of racial discrimination.

“Growing up my whole life, it could be subtle like them arguing over who gets to guard me thinking that I was lunchmeat, thinking that I was the easy pick, when in reality I was our team’s go-to guy.

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“Or it could be straight up just being called ‘chink’ or it even in college just seeing the six-man crowd, I’m seeing drunk, bloodshot people six inches from my face telling me about my eyes.

“These are microaggressions some of them, and some are very overt but the fact that you can get away with it, the fact it’s cool and accepted, that fact that it’s even happening.

“Even that headline alone, whether it’s malicious or not, the impact that it can have …

“One thing that I have been learning, even hearing you guys as you guys are talking, is constantly being unapologetic.

“That’s something that I need to and still am learning.”

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.





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