While he said racist remarks as an Asian American are something he’s faced in the NBA, Jeremy Lin said his experience was much worse in college.
Lin, 28, said the racial slurs he received came from fans, opposing players and even a coach throughout his four-year career at Harvard.
Lin recalled his experience at Cornell being the worst of it:
“The worst was at Cornell, when I was being called a c—k,” Lin said in an interview with his Brooklyn Nets teammate on “Outside Shot with Randy Foye.” “That’s when it happened. I don’t know … that game, I ended up playing terrible and getting a couple of charges and doing real out-of-character stuff. My teammate told my coaches, they were calling Jeremy a c—k the whole first half. I didn’t say anything, because when that stuff happens, I kind of just, I go and bottle up — where I go into turtle mode and don’t say anything and just internalize everything.”
He even had an opposing coach use an offensive slur against him on the road in Vermont.
“I remember, because I had my hands up while the Vermont player was shooting free throws — their coach was like, ‘Hey ref! You can’t let that Oriental do that!’ I was like, what is going on here?”
But fans at other schools also hurled negative stereotypes as insults at him. Lin said that a Georgetown fan shouted “chicken fried rice” and “beef lo mein” and “beef and broccoli” throughout the entire game, and that at Yale, fans heckled his appearance as well.
“They were like, ‘Hey! Can you even see the scoreboard with those eyes?’” Lin said.
However, as he has learned to deal with it, Lin said it doesn’t affect him the same way in the NBA.
“To this day in the NBA, there are still some times where there are still some fans that will say smaller stuff, and that is not a big deal,” Lin said. “But that motivates me in a different way.”
But now, the biggest challenge has been getting past stereotypes that come with being an Asian-American athlete, Lin said, especially at point guard.
“The biggest thing about me was no one had ever seen a player like me in terms of just my natural appearance,” Lin explained. “So coming out of college, everybody who criticized me was like, he is too weak and not fast enough and not athletic enough. And if you look at the combine stuff, me and John Wall were tied for first in the fastest sprint. So my speed and the stats were there, but every time they would write about me, they would say he is not going to be fast enough, he is not going to be strong enough, he is not athletic enough.”
Lin said he now has more fully embraced his role within the Asian community as he looks to combat stereotypes and prejudice along the way.
“Everything was about being Asian in the NBA. At a point, I was like, man, just stop talking to me about being Asian,” he said. “And everyone would refer to me like, ‘Linsanity!’ ‘Linsanity!’ I was like dude, just stop calling me that name. It became a huge burden because I felt like I had to be this phenomenon for everybody else.
“And now when I say badge of honor, it’s like, this is cool. I rep for all the Asians. I rep for all the Harvard dudes. I rep for the Cali guys. I rep for the underdogs. I take pride in it. It is not a burden to me anymore. I am not scared anymore. I appreciate it and want to help and challenge the world, stereotypes and everything.”