Jeremy Lin is an Asian-American NBA player for the Brooklyn Nets, and he has dreadlocks. Most people simply found that eye-catching, but one former player took it a step further.
Former Nets forward Kenyon Martin tore into Lin in an Instagram video Wednesday for the dreadlocks, but Lin’s response showed class and the composure of someone who has been judged for being an Asian in a predominantly black league for years.
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What Martin said
Martin played for the Nets, then in New Jersey, from 2000-04, and retired from the league after the 2014-15 season. He said this in an Instagram video:
“Do I need to remind this damn boy that his last name Lin?” Martin said. “Like, come on, man. Let’s stop with these people. There is no way possible he would’ve made it on one of our teams with that bulls**t 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,” Martin continued.
Lin avoided taking any direct shots at Martin in his reply, but did point out one glaring bit of hypocrisy in Martin’s cultural appropriation accusation.
Lin posted this in an Instagram comment (emphasis added):
“Hey man. Its all good you don’t have to like my hair and definitely entitled to your opinion. Actually i legit grateful you sharin it tbh. 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 on my wall growin up.”
Martin, a black man, was accusing Lin of trying to be black because of his hair, while Martin himself has tattoos of Chinese lettering on his forearm.
It’s not about the hair
Lin explained his reasons for his unique hairstyle choice in a column on The Players’ Tribune.
“But I liked how the process of changing my look actually made me feel more like myself again. I realized that in the years since Linsanity, I had spent a lot of time in a box, worrying about other people’s opinions on what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I wanted to stop basing my decisions so much on what strangers or critics might say about me. It was cool how something as simple as how I wore my hair could pull me out of my comfort zone and make me feel more free.”
Lin, a Harvard graduate who made it to the NBA despite being undrafted, enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame with the New York Knicks, followed by an injury-ridden fall from grace.
The entire time, he’s had to deal with detractors who believe much of his success and fame was only due to the novelty of being an Asian NBA star.
Martin interpreted Lin’s hair as an attempt to steal from African-American culture, but that wasn’t Lin’s intent. He just wants to free himself from the restraint of others’ opinions, and his response to Martin shows that he’s been able to do just that.
(H/T SB Nation’s Nets Daily)