The ever-changing hairstyles sported by Nets star Jeremy Lin have become a thing with his fan base, a discussion topic as popular as his point guard play. But Lin’s latest ’do — African-American-style dreadlocks — drew critical fire from former Nets star Kenyon Martin on Thursday and blew up into a spirited back-and-forth exchange on social media.
After the Nets’ 107-88 preseason win over Miami at Barclays Center, Lin sought to calm the waters by downplaying any difference of opinion and by expressing hope that respectful discussion might promote unity and cultural understanding between Asians, African-Americans and the rest of society in general.
“I think both sides need to come together,” Lin said. “As minorities, if Asians are able to be passionate about issues that aren’t just related to Asians and if African-Americans are able to be passionate about issues that aren’t just related to African-Americans, I think we’ll start to see something big happen. And I think we’ll be able to influence mainstream society. That’s the ultimate goal. But all this pitting me against him or anything that creates that division, I don’t really stand for.”
Lin recently authored an article for “The Players’ Tribune” in which he worried that some might view his new hairstyle as a form of “cultural appropriation,” and he explained at length the discussions he had with Nets teammates Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert and DeMarre Carroll, all of whom are African-Americans, about whether he should try dreadlocks. They urged him to do it, and Hollis-Jefferson followed suit as a show of unity.
But Martin took offense when he saw the style. He posted a video on Instagram in which he said, “I’m confused, puzzled, in shock, disappointed in his teammates and the Nets as an organization for allowing this foolishness!!! Do I need to remind this damn boy his last name Lin?
“Like, come on, man. Let’s stop it with these people. There is no way possible he would’ve made it on one of our teams with that [expletive] on his head. Come on man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘All right bro, we get it. You wanna be black. Like, we get it. But your last name is Lin.’ ”
Lin responded in the comments. “Actually i legit grateful you sharing it tbh,” Lin wrote. “At the end of the day i appreciate that i have dreads and you have Chinese tattoos bc i think its a sign of respect. And i think as minorities, the more we appreciate each others cultures, the more we influence mainstream society. Thanks for everything you did for the nets and hoops...had your poster up on my wall growin up.”
Lin supporters were quick to congratulate him on “winning” the supposed argument. But Lin was having none of that after Thursday’s game, and he was especially upset after hearing some of his fans might have posted comments on Martin’s Instagram page in which they used a racial slur.
“I heard people were saying the ‘N-word’ on his page,” Lin said. “That’s not what I stand for at all, and that’s not really helping us move in the direction we want to move in.
“It’s not about winning or losing. The whole point is that we’re trying to be unified . . . The whole point is that we all have to get on the same page. I think we need to have people stop going on his page and saying racist things to him, too. That’s not OK.”
Summarizing the theme of his article in “The Players’ Tribune,” Lin said, “We just need to spend a little bit more time thinking about what we say, thinking about what it’s like to be somebody else. At the end of the day, he said what he said, but I’m not really that offended. If that’s how he thinks, that’s how he thinks. But my job is to be gracious, loving and whatever. If I can share with him a little bit of my side, the next time, maybe he’ll have a different viewpoint.”