This feature about fired ESPN staffer who became Catholic priest gets religion — half of it anyway

A reader drew our attention to a Sports Business Journal feature on the former ESPN staffer fired in 2012 for his “Chink in the Armor” headline about Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American point guard who recently won an NBA title with the Toronto Raptors.

“One bad headline cost him his job at ESPN,” the story’s headline notes. “The priesthood brought healing.”

It’s a compelling profile that traces Anthony Federico’s journey “from the worst night of his life to the priesthood.”

The Sports Business Journal opens by revisiting the 2012 controversy:

You probably remember the story. A young ESPN employee, he wrote a headline for the company’s mobile app that many viewed as a racial slur directed at NBA player Jeremy Lin.

Federico’s life has taken an abrupt turn in the ensuing seven years. In June, he was ordained as a Catholic priest and assigned to a parish in Cheshire, Conn., just 15 miles from Bristol.

Seven years removed from the incident, Federico said memories from that night still hurt on occasion.

“But I’m free now,” he said. “I feel great healing and closure. I don’t have any ill will toward anyone in that time of my life.”

The writer does a really nice job of letting Federico explain — in his own words — his road from sports media to the clergy.

It all started over lunch at his new job:

During his lunch hour, he strolled around downtown Stamford, a walk that would take him by St. John the Evangelist Basilica, which had a daily noon Mass. Federico described his upbringing as more of a cultural Catholic than a practicing one — so much so that he didn’t realize that Catholic Mass is celebrated every day.

“On the first day, I walked past it and thought it looked cool,” Federico said. “On the second day, I walked past it again. Then — how biblical — on the third day, I decided to go in and see for myself what’s going on.”

Federico felt so moved by the experience that attending the noon Mass became part of his daily routine. He started bringing curious co-workers with him — most of whom were not Catholic — and they went out afterward to talk about the Mass and Catholicism. He would go home to learn about Catholic teachings so that he could explain some of the Mass’ rituals to his co-workers.

After a year and a half, he felt an intense calling to become a priest. 

“I started to realize that I was hungry for something more in life — something different than sports media, something that would have a more lasting impact on the world,” he said.

Reader Bull Schuck particularly liked the quote from Federico’s mom cited by the Sports Business Journal:

Still torn and terrified over the prospect of not dating anymore or not raising a family of his own, he leaned on advice from his mother. “You feel afraid to go into the seminary? Do it afraid,” she said. “Go face your fears because you’ll always wonder what might have been if you didn’t at least give this a chance.”

Said Schuck (his real last name): “That quote from his mom is so good, I’m going to tell it to my son as he goes off to college tomorrow.”

What’s missing?

Like Schuck, I would love to have seen a quote from Lin and a few details about Lin’s own faith.

The Sports Business Journal story points out that after Federico’s firing, Lin met him for lunch — “his way of trying to show me that he didn’t think there was any malicious intent behind the headline,” Federico told the publication. But no mention is made of a possible faith element there.

Readers who absorb every word of GetReligion might recall that tmatt praised a similar 2017 Washington Post religion story by Julie Zauzmer. Zauzmer’s feature described both Federico and Lin as “devout Christians” and said they spent much of their lunch discussing their faith. Lin did not respond to an interview request for that story, so it’s possible the Sports Business Journal tried to contact him without success.

Certainly, Lin has other matters on his mind as he plots his basketball future.

Home page photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

Please respect our Commenting Policy