Chinese-Canadian ball player Li Hongquan, who goes by Ben Li, has just started his collegiate basketball journey in the U.S. but he has already learned how to deal with the racism he faces in the basketball court.
Defying prejudice: The 19-year-old athlete, who now plays forward for Lehigh University in NCAA Division I, recently shared how has been on the receiving end of an assortment of anti-Asian trash-talking during games, SCMP reports.
- Born in Toronto to Chinese parents, Li dreams of taking his skills to the NBA and playing for the Chinese national team.
- Even before his NCAA debut, Li has already caught the attention of fans and the media which bestowed him the moniker “Chinese Zion Williamson” for his explosive plays and dunking ability.
- Last year, Li made history by becoming the first ethnic-Chinese player to make the All-Canadian game.
- But despite his imposing court presence and athletic skills, Li said other players would call him names as soon as they see him on the court.
- “From the players it’d be all comparisons to any Asian thing – soy sauce, Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, small eyes,” Li was quoted as saying. “Like I’d be shooting free throws and another team would be standing right there saying ‘can you even see the rim?’ and all that.”
Dealing with racism: Li shared that in response to the insults and racist slurs he receives, he would simply humble them by letting his basketball output do the talking and dominate the game.
- “Their words didn’t matter to me,” Li explained. “Most of the time they were trash-talking and all that, they were usually down. So any time they’d say anything, most of the time I don’t say anything back and just point at the scoreboard.”
- Li pointed out how the prevalence of anti-Asian racism in basketball is caused by the lack of Asian representation in the sport.
- “I‘ve seen very few Asians or Asian-Americans playing at the top level,” Li said. “Most of the time they’ll be sitting on the bench or being managers.”
- According to Li, he now gets sound advice from Taiwanese-American basketball star Jeremy Lin, who also had to overcome discrimination and prejudice in the sport.
- “This year, he gave me his number and offered me an outlet to ask questions if I’m struggling or need any advice,” said Li. “I look up to him like a bigger bro. That’s kind of surreal to me because he was my role model.”