Jeremy Lin Rocks Dreads, Sparks Another Cultural Appropriation Debate

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11:50 PM HKT, Sat October 7, 2017 1 mins read

Today in major league sports drama: Chinese-American NBA star Jeremy Lin, who became an international sensation after his breakout 2012 performance with the New York Knicks and the resulting Linsanity, is now rocking dreadlocks. He actually published a lengthy diary post about this decision.

Lin currently plays for the Brooklyn Nets, and once his new hair had made the rounds online, former Nets starter Kenyon Martin did what people on the internet do, and called Lin out for cultural appropriation in a series of Instagram posts which have since been deleted. The team website, Nets Daily, catches some of Martin’s deleted comments:

“Do I need to remind this damn boy his last name Lin?” Martin said with a sarcastic face and tone. “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 bullshit on his head. Come on man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘alright bro, we get it. You wanna be black.’ Like, we get it. But your last name is Lin.’”

Lin’s response has been congenial, as these things go:

Lin has a point there. Deciphering professional athletes’ Chinese tattoos has become somewhat of a between-commercials parlor game among sports fans who can read a bit of 汉字. Here are Martin’s:

患得患失 — to worry about gains and losses

The beef seems to be squashed now, and most commentators in the field appreciate the fact that Lin took pains to consult with his teammates before pulling the trigger on that eight-hour salon sesh. One doubts most Westerners with Chinese characters emblazoned on their bodies first consulted with a close team of trusted Chinese colleagues about deeper meanings and possible cultural blowback… More likely they just pointed to a bad translation in a book.

A lot of takes have come on the heels of this online drama, but we tend to agree with the perspective of (dreadlocked) sports commentator LZ Granderson, who opined for ESPN’s SportsNation:

I don’t care. I feel like we’re at a point — in this culture, anyway — in which we’re borrowing from so many different sources, all the time, non-stop. As long as he recognizes where the locks originated from, I’m good. My problem comes from people who think they discovered this stuff, and then want to lay claim to it.

Watch the rest of the clip, which moves right on into the issue of the cultural appropriation of “big booties,” here:

Cover photo: BET

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