Whitlock: ESPN and Mina Kimes pick a racial fight with a radio lightweight

As of this morning, Mina Kimes was still hanging from the cross her ESPN teammate Sarah Spain dragged to Twitter.

A Boston radio host answered “Mina Kimes” during a segment when he and his colleagues were jokingly discussing top five “nips,” which is slang for the miniature liquor bottles found in hotels. Spain retweeted an excerpt of the radio clip and complained:

“FYI – Nip is an ethnic slur against people of Japanese descent. What are we doing here, @WEEI? P.s. Mina isn’t even Japanese, you jackass.”

And with that, Mina Kimes, an alleged football expert on ESPN, was nailed to another Twitter cross. She’s been trending on the app for 24 hours. According to Boston Globe reporter Chad Finn, who spent the day tracking down this very important story, WEEI management said its radio host meant to refer to actress Mila Kunis.

Learning this, Kimes switched her Twitter avatar to Kunis. Kimes wants everyone to know she is a victim. That’s her job. Her value to ESPN is directly tied to her willingness to play victim. Does anyone ever react to her opinions about sports? Does anyone care what she says about sports?

Her relevance and value stem from her ethnicity, her gender, and her good looks.

When I first learned of Wednesday’s controversy, I assumed the Boston radio host had made a lewd comment about Kimes’ nipples. I was unaware that the word “Nip” was considered a slur or had any relation to Asian ethnicity.

Sarah Spain says the word is an ethnic slur. I’m unconvinced. It’s shorthand for Nipponese, which is another way of saying Japanese. Nippon means “the origin of the sun.” Japan is known as the Land of the Rising Sun.

Kimes and Spain are acting like the Boston radio host called Kimes a “wetback” or a “n***er” or “spic” or “b***h.”

He didn’t. He called her Japanese. What he did was the equivalent of calling a Texan “Tex.” At worst, it’s the equivalent of George Jefferson tossing around the word “honky.” No one cared then, and no one cares now.

How was Kimes harmed? The next time a black ex-con beats up an Asian shopkeeper in Los Angeles or New York, will Kimes claim that a white radio host in Boston created the culture of Asian hate?

Were Kimes’ feelings legitimately hurt? Is she less employable today than yesterday? Is the sports media world rigged to discriminate against Asian journalists?

I’d argue just the opposite. Mina Kimes has a high-profile TV job because she’s Asian and female. She’s no expert on the NFL. She’s a decent sports writer, but ESPN has more than two dozen sports writers far more accomplished, skilled, and informed than Mina Kimes. And some of them are women. But they’re not Asian, and they’re not as attractive as Kimes, and they might not be as comfortable playing victim as Kimes.

It’s all she’s got. Kimes and Spain love reveling in mean tweets and emails. They make news every time they pretend they’re the only sports writers getting criticized. ESPN plays along and jumps to defend its Asian Instagram model every time.

“There’s no place for these type of hateful comments, which were uncalled for and extremely offensive,” ESPN said in a statement.

Hateful? Did ESPN watch the video clip of the Boston radio host? The dude thought he was being funny. He wasn’t being hateful, and he wasn’t trying to offend. He made a stupid joke. No harm, no foul.

The word “Nip” was popular during WWII. American soldiers used the word when referring to Japanese soldiers. I’m sure some WWII veterans used the word in a derogatory fashion. But WWII has been over for more than 70 years.

A lot has changed in 70 years. In fact, a lot changed 20 years after the war. This morning I watched a 1965 episode of the TV show “McHale’s Navy,” a 30-minute comedy series about a group of bumbling American Navy troops in the Pacific Islands. The title of the episode was “A Nip in Time.”

I then watched old footage of Pat Morita’s stand-up routine. Before he starred in the movie “The Karate Kid,” Morita was a comic. He called himself “the Hip Nip.”

Again, Nip is shorthand for Nipponese, which is another way of saying Japanese.

If you can’t decipher my point, let me make it clear. The N-word is not shorthand for African. “Wetback” isn’t shorthand for Mexican. Neither is “spic.” “Kraut” isn’t shorthand for German. It’s short for sauerkraut, a food popular in Germany.

What Kimes and Spain are doing is cosplay. They justify their employment by playing victim every six months.

They’re not against racial slurs. The N-word is the most common ethnic slur in America. It’s used constantly in a hateful and offensive way in rap music. I would love to see Sarah Spain and Mina Kimes question ESPN for aligning itself and the sports world with every rap song and every rapper who uses the N-word in a hateful and offensive way.

They won’t nail themselves to that cross, because there are no rewards for challenging the corporate media entities that have normalized and mainstreamed harmful, anti-black bigotry.

Picking on a no-name Boston radio host is light work for lightweights.

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