Why Aren’t There More Asian-Americans in Pro Team Sports?


Growing up within the Washington, D.C., space within the 1990s, Mike Mon knew what to anticipate when he stepped on the basketball courtroom.

“How many times did I hear ‘Bruce Lee’?” says Mon, who’s Chinese-American. “Nonstop. I’m sure a lot of other players got that, too.”

Today, Mon is the match director of the Asian Basketball Championships of North America, which brings collectively aggressive males’s, girls’s and youth basketball groups composed completely of gamers of Asian descent. Asian-American basketball leagues have existed for nearly a century. Both Mon’s father and his grandfather performed in Chinese-American leagues once they had been children.

But regardless of the wild recognition of youth basketball within the Asian-American group going again generations, only a few Asian-American athletes have been recruited to play Division I school basketball, and only a handful have made it to the professionals. 

There’s a cause why Jeremy Lin’s two-week run of “Linsanity” again in 2012 caught so many of individuals, even veteran sportswriters and announcers, without warning. They do not count on to see Asian-American basketball stars. Or baseball stars. Or soccer stars. But why?

Like any problem involving race and tradition, it is a difficult query, and the reply requires an trustworthy have a look at the varied forces at play each inside and out of doors of the Asian-American group.

Education First

When we requested each Asian-American athletes and teachers to clarify the paucity of Asian-American skilled athletes, the very first thing they pointed to is the overwhelming emphasis inside Asian-American households on training over athletics.

“‘Where’s basketball going to get you?’ ‘Where’s football going to get you?’ ‘Your odds of becoming an NBA player are one in a million,'” says Mon, repeating a typical chorus. “‘But your odds of becoming a doctor … If you study hard, you put the work in, you determine your own fate.’ That has a lot to do with it. There are other ways to succeed in life besides athletics.”

Joel Franks is a sociology professor at San Jose State University and writer of a number of books on the historical past of Asian-American athletics, together with 1 referred to as “The Barnstorming Hawaiian Travelers,” the story of a semipro multiethnic Hawaiian baseball group that performed throughout America from 1912 to 1916.

Franks says that first-generation Asian-Americans skilled the identical social and monetary pressures as different immigrant teams within the early 20th century.

“Children of immigrants find it hard to gain cultural approval for sports outside of their neighborhoods,” says Franks. “Joe DiMaggio’s father said, ‘Don’t play baseball. You belong on this fishing boat with the rest of us.'”

Kirk Kim, who performed school basketball on the University of California Berkeley within the late 1990s, says that a part of the rationale he made it to the Division I degree was that his mother and father did not behave like “typical” Korean-American immigrants.

“They always supported me in sports,” says Kim, who walked onto the Cal group by means of open tryouts. “You wouldn’t find that a lot in a first-generation family household, especially in the Korean community and culture. Academics is always going to take precedence over everything.”

Pressure from mother and father steering children away from nonacademic “distractions” is definitely a part of the rationale why there are fewer Asian-American athletes within the pipeline for a lot of school sports activities and the professionals. But that does not inform the entire story. There’s additionally an enormous “respect” downside.

No Respect

It goes again to these “Bruce Lee” taunts that Mon and different Asian-American gamers used to get on the basketball courtroom. Even Jeremy Lin, who in highschool was named first-team All State in California and the Division II “Player of the Year,” didn’t get a single scholarship offer from Division I faculties.

“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Mon. “In a state like California, the Player of the Year doesn’t get scholarship offer? In that instance, that’s clearly a stereotype that Asian players can’t compete at that level.”

When Kim was rising up in inner-city Richmond, California, he says that Asian-American gamers weren’t taken critically.

“It made me tougher for sure,” says Kim. “Not that I felt like I was representing an entire race. More like, ‘There’s nothing different about you that I can’t do.’ That put an additional chip on my shoulder.”

That identical respect downside would not exist in all sports activities, says Mon. That’s why you see such excessive participation numbers for Asian-American athletes in sports activities like tennis, golf, swimming, gymnastics and volleyball, at the very least when in comparison with basketball, baseball and soccer.

The NCAA keeps stats on school athletes by race. According to numbers from the 2015-16 faculty 12 months, there have been solely 14 Asian-American males’s basketball gamers out of the 5,472 whole gamers in Division I. In soccer, it was 115 out of 28,380 gamers. In baseball, there have been 89 Asian gamers out of 10,430. These figures present Asian-American illustration was lower than 1 p.c for all 3 sports activities. By comparability, 10.5 p.c of girls’s Division I golfers had been Asian and a whopping 14.6 p.c of males’s fencers had been Asian. (Asian-Americans make up 5.6 p.c of the U.S. inhabitants).

“Respect has a lot to do with it,” says Mon. “Where are the coaches going to respect you? Where are the other players going to respect you? Am I going to be accepted on my high-school basketball team? I don’t know. But I know that if I do swimming, I will be, because that’s just based on your time.”

The excellent news, say each Mon and Kim, is that issues appear to be altering. And Jeremy Lin has performed no small position. “Linsanity” lastly gave Asian-American children the position mannequin they wanted. Largely ignored by faculties (Lin performed for Harvard, which does not award athletic scholarships) and undrafted by the NBA, Lin caught it out, seizing a last-chance alternative for the New York Knicks to point out the world what a Taiwanese-American baller may actually do.

“Since that happened, there has definitely been a larger number of Asian kids playing AAU [basket] ball,” says Mon, referring to the Amateur Athletic Union, a proving floor for prime youth expertise. “When we run our youth tournaments [for the Asian-American league], now I have to schedule around the big AAU weekends. Five years ago, it didn’t even figure into our planning process. That’s a positive sign.”


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