How Jeremy Lin’s Black Harvard Basketball Coach Helped Him Cope with Racism

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Jeremy Lin hasn’t had a game performance affected by racism since college. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Jeremy Lin credits his Black Harvard Crimson coach for helping deal with the racism he endured during his college basketball career.

At a game against Cornell, Lin played poorly due to racial slurs being hurled at him during the first half.

“I’ve been called a ch–k by players in front of the refs,” Lin said on the Wednesday, May 10, episode of his Brooklyn Nets teammate’s podcast “Outside Shot w/Randy Foye.” “The refs heard it ’cause [the other team was] yelling it … and the ref heard it, looked at both of us and didn’t do anything.”

Lin, a guard during his time at Harvard, said one of his teammates informed assistant coach Kenny Blakeney about the incident. Afterward, Blakeney pulled Lin to the side and shared his own experience with racism while he played at Duke. Blakeney said while eating lunch during road games, he would get food and beverages thrown at him as he was called the n-word.

“This isn’t even bad, what I’m going through,” Lin said. “That was a turning point for me in terms of dealing with racism because he taught me when you go through that, you gotta internalize it and do it so that you motivate yourself to play better. … You gotta find a way to turn that negative energy into something positive for yourself that motivates you. So, that was the last time that I ever really allowed racism to affect me that much.

“To this day in the NBA, there are fans who will say smaller stuff and it’s not a big deal. But that motivates me in a different way.”

Kenny Blakeney served as team captain during his last year at Duke. (Harvard Athletics)

When Lin went to the NBA, he expected the fans to be harsher than the ones he experienced in college, but he found the student attendees to be relentless. Though the racial slur was the worst of what he experienced, Lin was also taunted by stereotypes.

“The NBA crowd is a lot better than the college crowd,” Lin said. “The college crowd goes crazy. … It’s all students and they’re all drunk. They were saying all types of stuff. … We were playing against Georgetown and there’s one dude courtside and the whole game, he kept looking over at me the whole game, and goes, ‘Chicken fried rice’ and ‘Beef lo mein’ … ‘Beef and broccoli’ the whole game.

“I was at Yale and they were like, ‘Hey, can you even see the scoreboard with those eyes?’ … In Vermont, I remember at one point … I had my hands up while the Vermont player was shooting free throws and their coach was like, ‘Hey ref, you can’t let that Oriental do that.'”

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