Two weeks after a racist Jeremy Lin headline forced ESPN to make a public apology and to fire the employee responsible, another headline involving an Asian-American athlete was pulled from the network's website.
An ESPN.com headline about the impending release of the Korean-born Hines Ward drew attention on Wednesday night:
Ohio radio producer Alicia Barnhart was one of the first to notice the headline and tweeted: "Did ESPN do it again?"
Regardless of whether it did, the headline was pulled soon after. No reason was given for the change. It's common for websites to change headlines during the course of a day, so it's entirely possible that the edit had nothing to do with any racist fears.
Unlike the "Chink in the Armor" headline, it's not unreasonable to think a responsible person could have written this without making a racial connection. The Lin headline, whether it was unintentional or not, was something that should never have made it to the screen. This one is more ambiguous. It's a big leap to go from Hines Ward gets cut to Hines Ward's mother is Korean to Korean massage parlors to a pun for what might happen in a Korean massage parlor of ill repute. I don't know; maybe the headline writer was making an allusion to the ABC series "Happy Endings." (Disney owns ABC and ESPN. SYNERGY!)
At least that's what I'd like to think. The only way we'll know for sure is if ESPN releases a statement and/or the employee responsible for the headline writes a self-pitying, excuse-filled apology. In the meantime, here's some free advice to all headline writers at the web's third most-visited sports site: Avoid the puns for now.
- Hines Ward