(Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)
Anthony Federico, the former ESPN editor who was fired for creating a headline that was interpreted as a racial slur against New York Knicks Asian-American point guard Jeremy Lin, recently told The Christian Post that his faith was the only thing that helped him through the potentially career-ending incident.
Federico, 28, posted the headline "Chink in the Armor" on ESPN's website during the height of "Linsanity," the phenomenon sparked by the Knicks' consecutive wins with Lin at the helm. While many interpreted Federico's headline as racist, the former ESPN editor explained recently to CP that he was only referring to Lin as a basketball player, and did not have his ethnicity in mind.
"I used a common sports cliche, one that I and many media outlets have used thousands of times in the past. I used it to describe Jeremy's first bad game as a starter, his first sign of weakness after a magical winning streak," Federico said. "While I was writing the headline I wasn't looking at Jeremy as an Asian-American basketball player. I was looking at him as a basketball player."
After the incident took place, Lin said he forgave the editor and the two had lunch together and discussed their Christian faith. However, Lin's forgiveness did not change the fact that countless media outlets referred to Federico as "racist."
The former ESPN editor said the backlash from the incident was among the worst things he had experienced in life.
"I could not fathom the depth of rage and anger people directed at me. It was the worst month of my life," Federico admitted. "I believe anyone who knows me even remotely knows what kind of person I am and how I try, not by any means perfectly, to generously live the Gospel in my life."
Federico described receiving hate mail and violent threats after the "Chink in the Armor" headline went public.
"I was destroyed and re-destroyed by the media. I went from obscure writer to national news overnight," Federico said. "The paparazzi was at my door. I was bombarded with hate mail and threats of violence, all condemning me as a racist and a bigot."
Still, the editor said he took solace in his Christian faith during the tough times.
"Faith is the only thing that sustained me. My family was and remains incredibly devoted to me but it was God alone who could console me," Federico said. "I offered the entire situation to God. I was completely confident that, like every other event in my life, this was completely in God's control."
The misunderstanding over his headline about Lin helped Federico become closer to Jesus Christ, according to the editor.
"I tried to treat each attack on me as my cross and imitate Jesus as best I could. I tried not to get into 'Why God, why?!' moments but instead tried to retain serenity and Christ-like patience as much as possible," Federico said. "I tried to say a prayer of blessing for each person who insulted me via Twitter, email, the blogosphere or on TV. It was extremely difficult but it taught me so much about Jesus' command to bless those who persecute us."
Still, Federico said the entire incident changed his life in a way that only God could. After being fired from ESPN, the former editor was able to find work as a consultant at a sports technology firm.
"I used the time I was unemployed to attend Mass nearly every day and meet Jesus in the Eucharist. It's crazy to think that on the day of what would be my last shift – the day of the incident – I tweeted 'Behold, I make all things new,'" he told CP. "Little did I know that God would begin a (sometimes painful) process of transformation in my life that very night! The spiritual lessons I have learned from this will benefit me the rest of my life."