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Stereotypes overshadow achievements made by talented individuals

By Michael Nowels
On February 14, 2012

In the United States, we are fortunate to host many of the world's best athletes in their respective sports. If you're one of the best in the world at baseball or basketball, no matter where you're from, it's likely that you will spend some time playing in the U.S. That being said, there are still racial lines that are drawn within those leagues and associations.

We all know the stereotypes about basketball — after all, the NBA is 77 percent black, three percent Latino and only one percent Asian, according to a study by race-sports author Richard Lapchick. The game is expanding to all corners of the world, though, and is growing rapidly in Asia, where several players competed during the lockout. The two Asian players that would have readily come to mind a couple weeks ago were Yi Jianlian and, of course, Yao Ming, both taller than seven feet.

In steps Jeremy Lin, a 6-foot-3 benchwarming point guard for the New York Knicks. Filling in for a depleted (and frankly, under-talented) Knicks backcourt, Lin has absolutely shined, averaging 28.3 points and 8.3 assists over the last five games going into Tuesday, all wins, and four of which he started in. However, unlike Yi and Yao, Lin is not an import to the United States. He grew up near Stanford and attended Harvard, which is great pedigree for a rocket scientist, but is generally quite the opposite when searching for someone to run the pick-and-roll.

Some in the basketball community and beyond have made a big deal about Lin's race, considering Asians are grossly under-represented in the NBA. There have been some positive responses, from proud Asian people and progressives of all skin tones.

Unfortunately there have been some negative reactions, as well, most notably from boxer Floyd Mayweather and Fox Sports contributor Jason Whitlock, regarding Lin's race as the main cause of his recent media attention and popularity.

 According to Lin, he experienced some of the same sentiments from opposing fans and even players during his time in college, so this is nothing new. I suppose racism is somewhat common when someone is successful representing a minority in his or her field, but that does not make it any less disappointing.

If Americans placed less emphasis on skin color and more emphasis on culture and people, we would be able to take a step back and appreciate the accomplishments of others. It's time for us to grow up as fans and as people to shift the focus from the race of the players to the beauty of the game they play.

— Michael Nowels is a sophomore elementary education major and weekly columnist for The Mirror.

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