Family Man: the story of Anthony Federico
Former ESPN.com writer Anthony Federico's life changed after he unintentionally wrote a headline many perceived to be racist.
July 9th, 2012
05:59 AM ET

Family Man: the story of Anthony Federico

By John Sepulvado, CNN

(New York) - During a late night at work, Anthony Federico went from an unknown editor at ESPN to an accused bigot after he unintentionally wrote a racially loaded headline. "Chink in the Armor" was the headline, used for an article in February about a poor performance by the New York Knicks' rising star, Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American. Soon Federico was fired, news crews were following him and his family, and the hate mail became so intense his mother refused to accept packages. Just as it seemed his reputation and life would never recover, his family stepped in to help carry the 28-year old through the most turbulent time of his life. His family tells the story in this audio profile.

“I know something was up and I thought he’d been in a car accident,” says Anthony’s mother Debbie Federico recalling the day her son came into her room. “He said ‘they are saying that I made a racist remark.’” (5:12)

“I picked that headline because it’s an expression that I’ve used frequently to describe a team or a player, their first bad game, their first sign of weakness,” says Anthony Federico. (4:12)

“After parenting five children for all of those years having one sentence take down all you’ve built up, that is demoralizing,” says Federico’s father Anthony Federico Senior. (6:41)

soundoff (962 Responses)
  1. http://showlowmainstreet.com

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    July 13, 2012 at 4:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. John

    John... that is one beautiful radio story. Nicely done!

    July 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. davebrownsbody

    I know it's a reality of the world we live in, but it's a shame to see so many people assume the worst about someone they've never met.

    If you had the chance to meet Anthony, you'd quickly realize that he's a great guy with a big heart. This was unintentional. People make mistakes.

    Anthony has handled his mistake like an adult, and Jeremy Lin has shown considerable class and dignity in dealing with this controversy.

    Those on the right (and left) who are attempting to politicize this incident to fit their personal agendas are what's wrong with this world.

    I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy, let alone his/her entire family.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. davebrownsbody

    I know it's a reality of the world we live in, but it's a shame to see so many people assume the worst about someone they've never met.

    If you had the chance to meet Anthony, you'd quickly realize Anthony is a special guy with a big heart. This was unintentional. People make mistakes.

    Anthony has handled this situation with class and dignity, as has Jeremy Lin. Those from the left and right who are trying to politicize this incident to fit their personal agenda are a big part of what's wrong with this country.

    I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy, let alone his/her entire family.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. EricJNYC

    The man deserves his firing. No doubt. Whether it was intentional or not it was most definitely insensitive and he deserves to lose his job for his carelessness. And to then act like everyone else is crazy and it was innocent is just silly. He does not deserve to be harassed, losing his job was enough.

    July 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kevin

    Stop it. Stop with all of this "niggardly" this and "I didn't know what Chink meant" that. There is no mob mentality. THE GUY IS AN EDITOR FOR E-S-P-N. He's paid to know what that stuff means, and to catch it before he releases it for millions to see, and he costs his employer money because they have to fix the bad PR from his ignorance. I don't want anyone to lose their job, but this is pretty cut and dry.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. handerwyc

    I believe in the old adage of calling a spade a spade.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. L

    I don't believe this poor man should have lost his job. He made a simple mistake, common in the journalism business. What should have happened was his higher ups should have caught the mistake and changed it. Are they not just as guilty as him? Why were they not fired? It is a century old metaphor and some people should quit being so sensitive and taking everything personally

    July 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      @ L, this guy is the editor. the higher ups pay HIM to catch it. He didn't.

      July 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. wangjt

    Although I don't think his life should be destroyed by one article, he should have known better. ESPN posted the exact same headline for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing regarding the US basketball team and immediately took down the article because of the controversy that generated around the wording. That was about 3 and 1/2 years before the Jeremy Lin article. Anthony Federico was at ESPN for 6 years and I find it extremely hard to believe that he (as an editor) was not aware of the controversy that surrounded the original 2008 headline. I feel bad for the overreaction he's dealing with, but if he did not have the insight to see the problem with running that headline a second time, he is a serious liability to his employer and does deserve to get fired.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Formica Dinette Armor

    I am glad this man is no longer writing. My entire family wrote to request that he step off after he made his little diatribe about Armors. The Armor family is a proud bunch and we is still mad. Also, that Cooper reporter laughs like a girl.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • lolz

      obvious troll is obvious

      July 9, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jaime Hairass

    I am an Irish-Nepalese-African-Denmarkian-American currently eating a bean burrito at Won-Foo bakery in Oxford, Ohio. Too many people today are sore at being hairassed but they would not be if they would have grown up with a name like mine. Call me Tim. When people hairass others, it is often because they have some difference. This does not make it wrong as in absolute. Some hairassment is good. Wrong is holding your hand out as a career. That hairasses me. The biggest problem for a bigot is a deviant. The opposite is also true. Words have meaning, but today people feel instead of thinking.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Steffn

    For the moment, let's assume the wording was chosen to be racist. Then let's ask, what would have been the politically correct wording: "Chinese-American in the Armor"? And finally, let's ask if this proposed substitution would have made any sense. Do the Knicks have armor? Is 'armor' a common or newly clever basketball metaphor? I'm thinking 'not', so I would conclude that the proposed PC substitution misses the mark and therefore the intention of the original phrase was most likely not racist.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rod Marinelli

    Since NBA players don't wear armor, only a MORON would not get the fact that it's a sports cliche that has been used for eons. There is no armor. There is no chink (dent/crack you dummies!). It's a metaphor.

    Also, why did the editor at ESPN allow this to be posted? Is that his/her job? To edit? I bet at the end of day this guy will sue and win big money. Sure hope so. He did NOTHING wrong. Only a fool looking to stir up trouble would think otherwise.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steve

    The day it all started to fall apart was the day we decided to allow the inference to trump the implication.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. NoDifferent

    In Chicago anyway, "chinks" also to refer to us as "just Whiteys" now too when we turn down their sexual propositions. There's equal opportunity "hate" to be spread evenly now. It's a New Day in America.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • iammeyouareyou

      Funny you said "Whitey". My dad's nickname was Whitey. Everyone called him Whitey since he arrived in America from Germany. Mom called him that every day.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Steve

    At least in this case the offending word has a double meaning, one of which is considered a racial slur, so you could argue that when use in reference to a member of the race associated with that slur it should be avoided, even if the alternate meaning is intended. But I couldn't help thinking about the ridiculous case of David Howard, a white aide to Anthony A. Williams, the black mayor of Washington, D.C., who lost his job for using the word "niggardly" in reference to a budget. A word which has no racial meaning at all. It simply means mean or stingy with money. We now have to not only watch what words we use, but also figure out how some over-sensitive idiot may mis-hear our words.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  17. iammeyouareyou

    I don't get it. A 'chink in the armor" is a old-fashioned phrase describing a small dent or hole in something that should be strong. That's it. Nothing more. Expect when the freaks in the media read it. Then it is a caree-ending racial slur. GIVE ME A BREAK!!?? Chink, Chink, Chink.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Charles

    Gee, I think after reading all of these comments, I'm going to light up a fag, cook up some nice Obama waffles and smother it up with some Aunt Jemima syrup and Land O' Lakes butter and get ready to watch the Cowboys kill the Redskins. Oh wait, it's baseball season. There should be a good Indians game on now. And I really look forward to that Eskimo Pie for dessert.

    Some of these names have just become of part of our culture and unfortunately are often misused and misinterpreted.

    His "oversight" happened a million times before, and will happen a many more times. Move on.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoDifferent

      I'm gonna watch my cartoons of Speedy Gonzales on VHS tonight. It's not on TV anymore. It was hilarious too.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  19. IowaBoy

    My family consists of Italian immigrants (legal) and my best friend has always called me "Wop" or "Dago" and it has never bothered me. It just was never interpreted as a racial slur to me. If you wanted to get your head busted, you'd refer to me as "mafia" which , to us, was worse than some term others feel is a racial slur. Hells bells, I'm not even sure I qualify for a racial slur by simply being an Italian-American (I guess that term, too, is offensive~~should just say I'm an American).

    July 9, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • iammeyouareyou

      Hence the musical term "Doo-Wop" for the oldies from the late '50s. Most Doo-Wop singers and groups were Italian or Italian-Americans from the NYC area. Not joking.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  20. NoDifferent

    Big deal. The only thing media/newspapers/radio//journalism are good for anymore is biased and censored opinion.

    They no longer report the "5 – W's" (who,what, when, where and why) that I learned in 8th grade Journalism 101 (many moons ago). He's entitled to his freedom of speech too, in what is considered "journalism" now.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Com'onsense

    If a writer doesn't know the power of language, he shouldn't be a writer. Period.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Jay EdGAR

    Please, PLEase, PLEASE stop making the comments about Spaniards. Some of us may have come across the border but we work hard. I do not lie up in my crib all day or hang about asking to hold a dollar. I spend my evenings working on engines with my friend Juan Galt. Let freedom ring, let freedom ring. Even for deviants!

    July 9, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Kevin

    I'm East Asian descent (and American) and I don't think Anthony Federico actually meant anything racist by it. He probably wasn't thinking about the alternative slang meaning of the term. It's not like he said: "Kill all the Asians" or something. I'm not offended by this at all.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Lizzy10

    To anyone who thinks he didn't know that the term was derogatory you must have grown up in fantasy land, because in the real world people understood what he was saying and why he wrote it. He needs to man up and accept the fact that what he wrote was offensive, not clever.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Donald in CA

    They say the freaks come out at night, and anthony came out. The right wingers have made racism popular.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  26. JT

    Why do people feel it necessary to inform others what they should and should not be offended by? It's no one's place. Especially if you haven't suffered the same type of discrimination or harrassment. It's very easy to say one should have a thicker skin, quite another to have the capacity to understand what kind of affect a lifetime of insensitivty would have. He was looking to make people laugh. Who's laughing now?

    July 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod Marinelli

      You're an idiot.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Cohen

    Oh, did I make a mistake? I should have said the rest and leave (us) out. My bad.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Jay Tate

    What a joke, everyone is too hyper-sensitive, political correctness to the utmost extreme!! Please get a sense of humor! If it was about an Anglo-Saxon and he was called a "Honky", everyone in the media would just laugh it off, paying it no attention whatsoever.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • ms

      Keep it up and I'll report you to home land security. You Gringos had enough fun, now its our turn.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • andrew

      He knew what he was saying. If this is an analogy used often by him why is this the first to be published. Be a man and say you slipped up and that your an out of the closet racist. Oh yea and jay tate you gotta be white.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Jackie

    I love the irony of the situation. He tried to be punchy with that headline and it turned around to punch him in the face. DESERVED. His level of ignorance is just beyond me. I'm sure he knew what "chink" means and he just didn't think that to Chinese-Americans "chink" is the equivalent of n*gger to African Americans

    July 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I'm not so sure you understand the meaning of the word "deserved". You think someone deserves to have their life ruined because of such a thing? I'm sure Jeremy Lin saw the headline, rolled his eyes, and moved on. Even if you believed in something as archaic as 'eye for an eye' punishment, what he did is nowhere near as severe as the backlash he's received. Grow up, sport.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Just out of curiosity, if "chink" is equivilent to "nigger," why did you bleep out "nigger" and not "chink?"

      July 9, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
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