Earlier this week, Jeremy Lin debuted his latest hairstyle. The Nets point guard, who has experimented with a range of different hairstyles over the course of the last few years, showed off the dreads that he has now prior to a preseason game against the Knicks.
Lin also put together a lengthy post for The Players’ Tribune explaining why he decided to get dreads and, maybe more importantly, the thought process that went into it. He openly acknowledged the fact that he would probably be accused of cultural appropriation by some people, but he also said that he spent countless hours talking with teammates and carefully considering his decision before getting dreads, which many people seemed to appreciate.
Former NBA player Kenyon Martin must have missed the Players’ Tribune memo, though, because on Thursday, he jumped on Instagram and, in a series of since-deleted posts, he took a series of shots at Lin over his hair. He started by posting a photo of Lin along with the caption, "I have so many questions."
But that was just the beginning. In two subsequent IG videos, he accused Lin of wanting to "be black" and said that he never would have approved Lin’s latest hairstyle if they had ever played together.
"Do I need to remind this damn boy that his last name Lin?" Martin asked in his first video. "Like, come on, let’s stop this. These people. There is no way possible he would’ve made it on one of our teams with that bullshit going on on his head. Come on. Somebody really needs to tell him like, 'Aight, we get it, we get it, you want to be black.' We get it, but the last name is Lin."
In the second video, which Martin released after catching some backlash over his first clip, Martin said that Lin is free to wear whatever hairstyle he wants. But he also said that he’s free to disagree with his decision to wear it.
"See I ruffled a few of y’all feathers, so good," Martin said. "Take y’all comments to the bank and see what they give y’all for ‘em. That’s what I think about them first and foremost. But that man grown. That man can rock whatever hairstyle he want to rock. That don’t mean I have to like it or agree with it. Second of all, I’m grown. I can say whatever I want to say about it. It ain’t about race. It ain’t about none of that. Grow up, people, it was a joke, but I don’t like it. I don’t agree with it, so it is what it is."
Eventually, Lin found out about the clips that Martin put up on IG. And while he very easily could have just ignored them—as he wrote in his Players’ Tribune post, he was fully aware that not everyone was going to like his dreads—he didn’t do that. Instead, he responded to Martin through a comment on IG, and rather than clapping back at him like some other players might have done, Lin quite literally killed the former Nets player with kindness.
"Hey man. It’s all good you don’t have to like my hair and definitely entitled to your opinion," Lin wrote. "Actually i legit grateful you sharin it tbh. At the end of the day i appreciate that i have dreads and you have Chinese tattoos bc I think its a sign of respect. And i think as minorities, the more we appreciate each others cultures, the more we influence mainstream society. Thanks for everything you did for the nets and hoops…had your poster up on my wall growin up."
Lin was referencing several tattoos Martin has on his arm in his IG comment.
Lin also spoke with reporters after the Nets’ preseason game against the Heat on Thursday night and talked at length about what Martin said. He asked for fans not to turn this into a made-up beef between the two, and he also asked for fans to steer clear of leaving hateful comments on Martin’s IG page.
"I’d hope that a lot of Asian fans don’t go on his page and say racist things to him," Lin said. "I think that’s not the right way to go about it, and I think in a lot of ways to pit us against each other like, 'I won versus Kenyon Martin winning,' I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it. It’s not really about winning or losing. The whole point is that we’re trying to be unified, so I feel like even sometimes when people come to me and say, 'Oh man, you embarrassed him,' it’s like, 'Dude, that’s not what this is about.' That’s not the whole point of this discussion is to pit it into two sides to see who wins. The whole point is that we all have to get on the same page. We need to have people stop going on his page and saying racist things. Like, that’s not OK….We just need to spend a little more time thinking about what we say, thinking about what it’s like to be somebody else. At the end of the day, he said what he said, but I’m not really offended. If that’s how he thinks, that’s how he thinks."
Lin continued by once again calling for people to stop name-calling and instead focus on coming together to try and gain a better understanding of others.
"I heard people were saying the N-word on his page," Lin said. "That’s not what I stand for and that’s not helping us move in the direction we want to move in. I think both sides need to come together. Then I think, as minorities if we are able to appreciate it—if Asians are able to be passionate about issues that aren’t just related to Asians, if African-Americans are able to be passionate about issues that aren’t just related to African-Americans—I think we'll see something big start to happen. I think we’ll be able to influence mainstream society and that’s the ultimate goal."
Martin hasn’t spoken any further on his original comments. But at the end of the day, it seems like Lin’s latest hairstyle has generated the kind of discussion he hoped it would, and it also seems like he’s fully prepared to deal with whatever backlash comes his way in a peaceful manner. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out out yet, you can go back and read his Players’ Tribune piece about his dreads here.