Jeremy Lin Dishes About Harmful Asian Stereotypes

April 27th 2017

Samantha Cowan

Jeremy Lin is one of the fastest players in the NBA, but that attribute was always preceded by an adjective — one he thinks has to do with him being Asian.

“Me and John [Wall] were the fastest people in the draft, but he was athletic and I was ‘deceptively’ athletic,” Lin said during an interview with fitness vlogger Kevin Krieder. “I think I’ve been deceptively ‘whatever’ my whole life.”

jeremy lin

Lin was responding to Krieder’s questions regarding stereotypes about Asian men, like not being considered as "masculine." For Lin, the idea that an Asian man couldn’t play basketball had serious ramifications.


Lin was set to be drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2010, but General Manager Daryl Morey ultimately decided not to select him. During a book interview, Morey revealed that Lin’s race did indeed play into his decision not to draft him.

“He’s incredibly athletic,” Morey said. “But the reality is, every fucking person, including me, thought he was unathletic. And I can’t think of any reason for it other than he was Asian.”

Now, Lin plays for the Brooklyn Nets, but it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for Lin. Just last year, he told ESPN that he still gets stopped by security guards before games because he doesn’t look like the rest of the players.

“I'm used to it by now,” Lin said. “It's just part of being Asian in the NBA."

Lin also addressed Krieder’s questions about Asian men being considered unattractive.

“You don’t see a lot of non-Asian girls going for Asian guys,” Lin said. “That’s just like when they say ‘yellow fever’ growing up, it wasn’t like all these white girls are going for Asian guys. It was the Asian girls going for white guys.”

The de-masculization of Asian men dates back to at least the mid-1800s. As a way to discriminate against them, some laws barred Asian men from owning property while others were barred from factory jobs, forcing them to take traditionally feminine jobs, like beauty care and laundry.

Those discriminatory practices had a lasting impact. Asian men are often portrayed as effeminate in TV and film, with small penis jokes persisting (Two Broke Girls, The Hangover). A 2014 study from dating website OKCupid found that Asian men had the hardest time getting dates compared to any other racial group. And just a few months ago, Steve Harvey took a jab at Asian men on his talk show, saying that neither white nor black women were attracted to Asian men. 

While Lin continues to experience discrimination, he’s hopeful for the future.

“I just think we need to keep being ourselves, and I think the world will come around and appreciate us Asians,” Lin said. “I think the time will come.”