Max Bretos recently took over as the host of ESPN's MMA Live, but he won't be hosting that show -- or any other -- for the next 30 days, after he was suspended on Sunday morning for making a poor choice of words when referring to New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin.
Bretos, who became the MMA Live host after Jon Anik departed ESPN to work for the UFC, was interviewing former Knick Walt Frazier for an ESPNews segment about Lin when he said of Lin, "He's handled everything very well -- as you said, unflappable -- but if there is a chink in the armor, where can Lin improve his game?"
The word "chink" as a racial slur is totally unacceptable. A powerful column from Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday articulates that. ESPN was right to fire an ESPN.com employee who used "Chink in the Armor" as the headline over a story about Lin after the Knicks lost for the first time since Lin entered their starting lineup. A headline needs to be thought over and carefully considered, and using such a phrase alongside an image of Lin is appallingly bad judgment.
But in my own opinion, Bretos did not deserve to be suspended. He made an unfortunate choice of words on live television, but I do not believe there was anything racially motivated in what he said. On that front, I agree with Bretos's colleague Michael Kim, who defended Bretos in a series of messages on Twitter.
"There are thousands of fine, outstanding people at ESPN who I am proud to call colleagues, including Max Bretos," Kim wrote. "I truly believe it was an unfortunate use of words but I KNOW there was no malice there. That came on live TV. But there's a different thought process involved with scripts/copy and headlines. Am I disappointed this happened at ESPN? Yes. But...There is no finer place to work. It is a company that has made diversity in its workforce a priority. I am confident we'll be better because of this in the future. . . . Now if you'll excuse me, my son and I are going to enjoy rooting for the NBA role model I never had. #Linsanity."
Shortly before his suspension was announced, Bretos took to Twitter to apologize.
"Wanted 2 apologize 2 all those I have upset. Not done with any racial reference. Despite intention,phrase was inappropriate in this context," Bretos wrote. "My wife is Asian, would never intentionally say anything to disrespect her and that community. I have learned from this will make every effort to avoid something similar happening again."
MMA Live is scheduled to return this week at 11 p.m. Eastern on Friday. On Sunday afternoon an ESPN spokesman told MMAFighting.com that the network is looking into the question of who will fill the host's chair on MMA Live this week.