CINCINNATI — St. Xavier High School basketball team captain Nathan Stockman is now the proud owner of custom shoes with the “P.F. Chang’s” name printed on both shoes.
Last year, the Chinese chain restaurant’s name had been among the racist insults Elder High School students directed toward the half-Korean Stockman and black teammate Bobby Jefferson during a rivalry match. (Days later, the Elder team would be greeted by chants of “National news!”)
He decided to take the venom out of the epithet by embracing it.
“I said, ‘Really?’” his mother, Susan Stockman, said of the moment he told her how he wanted to decorate his shoes.
His reply: "Mom, yeah."
Stunned and touched, she called the real P.F. Chang’s corporate headquarters to share her son’s story. They called her back two weeks later with an invitation: Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeremy Lin, who endured anti-Asian prejudice in his rise to “Linsanity” fame, had heard about the incident and wanted to fly Stockman, Jefferson and their families to Atlanta for a game.
He also wanted to buy Stockman a pair of custom P.F. Chang’s basketball shoes.
“It was very affirming to know that there are companies, organizations and people that still stand for things that are right,” Jefferson’s mother, Mina Jefferson, said.
The two young players got courtside seats to the Hawks game and spent time talking to Lin over dinner.
“He literally sat across the table and they just talked like friends,” Susan Stockman said. “It was very, very casual, and it was very exciting for Nathan.”
P.F. Chang’s restaurant had no relationship with Lin before they heard about what Jefferson and Stockman had experienced, corporate spokesperson Dwayne Chambers said Tuesday. The story — and the way the boys had reacted to their opponents’ taunts — inspired them to reach out and create a memorable moment for the pair.
“It just made sense to try to do something and take a situation that was super negative and really turn that into a positive,” Chambers said. “Whether it’s directed to you or it’s directed to somebody else, racism is racism. We should stand up and say, ‘That’s wrong.’”
Both mothers said they were proud of the way their sons dealt with the incident, using it as an opportunity to demonstrate strength in the face of harassment and continue playing basketball for the love of the game.
“It happens,” Susan Stockman said. “You just got to get over it and move on.”
Jefferson moved on to Dartmouth College after graduating from St. Xavier in 2018. Nathan Stockman, now a St. Xavier senior, will start his 2019-'20 school year at the University of Kentucky.