It’s interesting to me that ESPN’s headline “A chink in the armor” has become such a major issue to the point where the editor that approved the headline was fired. Dan Patrick explained that it was a 28 year old editor that made the decision and ultimately was fired. First, I think the idea that the editor needed a more senior editor over him to give the final approval simply because of age is ridiculous. ESPN has to be a fast moving enterprise. Having layers upon layers of editors to give approval is not the way to accomplish that.
Second, I wouldn’t be surprised if the editor was unaware of the offensiveness of the term “chink.” I’ve certainly heard the term before and was loosely familiar with it, but it would never have occurred to me that “chink” is anywhere close to the offensiveness of the term “nigger.” I don’t mean that to say that we need to be more sensitive to African-Americans, but that knowledge and history of the term “chink” is severely lacking.
As I mentioned before the sports media world is extremely fast moving. The Knicks-Hornets game came down to the last few possessions so there wasn’t much time to plan a headline. When they lost and the seemingly major flaw was that Lin committed 9 turnovers – ESPN needed to quickly think of a headline that conveyed that message. “A chink in the armor” is probably the best known phrase to illustrate that, and without previous knowledge of the history of that word I’d be surprised if a potential backlash even occurred to the editor.
The headline was removed within an hour and an apology quickly followed. If the double meaning was intentional, then yes, I believe firing the employee was the right course of action because using a headline to make racial slurs is not acceptable. But if the employee honestly did not intend for any controversy then I think he deserves a second chance and ESPN was wrong in trying to save face to the media by announcing the employee’s termination.