As Asians gain popularity in American sports, we should remember that pro tennis player Michael Chang helped make Asian athletes more visible. Chang, 36, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Michael Chang’s significance goes far beyond that. At a time when Asian Americans were still firmly associated with being computer nerds (the “Long Duk Dong” stereotype), Michael Chang quietly but firmly showed American society that we could be equally accomplished in other professionals and pursuits as well. He was a role model to many young Asian American males like myself, who finally saw a successful professional athlete who looked like us.
I will also associate Michael Chang with one particular moment in my life — the moment in which I changed from being a quiet and passive young American just looking to fit in, into a proud and angry young Asian American who finally became tired of being the target of racism and was now going to stand up and resist.
I liked Chang’s early 90s Reebok Pump ads, but let’s not forget about Japanese American figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi? The Olympic gold medalist and recent Dancing With the Stars winner has also been monumental in representing Asians in sports.