As the subject of the phenomenon known as “Linsanity,” Jeremy Lin has a deep understanding of the politics and prejudices associated with racial stereotyping. The Harvard grad also has a social conscience, and he’s trying to figure out how best to exercise it in relation to the growing number of protest gestures by professional athletes aimed at calling attention to the issue of police shootings of unarmed African-Americans.
Speaking at media day festivities on Monday, the Nets’ new point guard was asked if he has considered taking any action comparable to the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to kneel during the national anthem as a means of silent, peaceful protest against police violence.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about it,” Lin said. “I’ve actually had several conversations this past week with some friends. People are asking me, ‘Are you going to do anything?’ I haven’t completely figured it out. I’ve been just asking questions and thinking a lot.
“One thing I will say is that I’m very thankful there is an increase in exposure and awareness about it, because, in some ways, it was kind of swept under the rug until recently, where you see all these videos.”
Lin worried that hostility generated by the issue might lead to more violence. At the same time, he believes the political conversation is necessary to move toward resolving the problem of police and community relations.
“There are systemic issues, there are social issues that aren’t going to be solved overnight,” Lin said. “But the quicker we can get talking about it, the more I think things will happen.”
If the Nets decide to make any sort of political gesture, Lin said, he wants it to come about as a result of a “stand of unity.” He doesn’t want to see teammates divided by their political opinions.
Lin’s own racial sensibilities have been fine-tuned by his experience as the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to make the NBA, so he has a unique perspective on current social issues.
“I’ve always said [race] is a double-edged sword [with] my story,” Lin said. “You can just take the racial element alone. Anything I do is hyper-magnified in a good way or a bad way. People are quick to discount me or say certain things because of my race. And when I do well, people are quick to say he’s so amazing, whatever, because of my race, because of the way I look.
“In some ways, ‘Linsanity’ wouldn’t have been ‘Linsanity’ if I was a different skin color. Most likely, it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal, and that went to my advantage. But prior to that, a lot of the obstacles to even get . . . on the floor, those were definitely obstacles that were very much stereotypes that I had to fight along the way. So I’ve always understood that there’s good and there’s bad and you have to take them together and just be thankful for it all.”
Lin is most thankful for the chance to return to New York. He chose the Nets in free agency because he believed they were the best fit, but he admitted praying for the chance to return to the city where he made his name with the Knicks.
“I always told myself if I have the chance and it’s a good fit, of course, I’d love to come back to New York,” Lin said. “It’ll always have a special place in my heart. I was just extra excited when it happened, because I was like ‘Man, I get to come back here, the friends here, the fans, get some good food, be back where my career kind of took off.’ ”