A national figure makes a racially insensitive remark. The mainstream media doesn’t pick up the story for several days. Meanwhile, a lone website operator who operates anonymously beats the drum until the rest of the world is forced to take notice.
Although a columnist for AsianWeek blasted O’Neal’s pronouncement as racist and alerted mainstream media in early January, the comments by the Laker big man went unreported by TV and the big dailies. Unlike other sports gaffes by the likes of pitcher John Rocker, it seemed that when Shaq Daddy made fun of Chinese folks, it wasn’t considered newsworthy.
That’s when the half-Asian Houston Webmaster, a lifelong Rockets fan who goes by the nom-de-Internet “John,” decided to take things onto his own keyboard.
“It’s unusual for me to post an article and make a comment, but in this case I feel it’s warranted,” wrote John. The thirtysomething asked The Insider not to divulge his real name because it would cause problems with his employer, an Internet company. “As much of a disappointment as it is for the media to not cover this story, it’s more deplorable what Shaq said about Yao.”
John’s Web site proclaims itself “100% dedicated to Yao Ming’s life in the NBA.” No way was he going to let O’Neal’s blather go unchallenged.
He posted a link to the AsianWeek column by Irwin Tang and encouraged site visitors to contact sportswriters at the L.A. Times and the Houston Chronicle to express their outrage. Within three days of the posting on the heavily traveled Web site, the national media finally picked up the story of Shaq’s insult. It provoked a less-than-convincing apology by O’Neal, who could not resist a few sarcastic kung fu feints as he walked away from reporters.
Chalk up one more testimonial to the growing power of Web site commentators like Matt Drudge.
It’s a good story, even if The Insider hasn’t figured out that Matt Drudge is, like, so 1998. The original Asian Week article is here. And on a side note, the next Asian basketball star in America may be a woman.