Don Yee: “I support STF because I see an army of warriors who’ll tell great stories”

Donald H. Yee is a lawyer and partner with Yee & Dubin Sports, which represents professional athletes and coaches, including Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.

This statement was prepared by Yee and presented to the Asian American Journalists Association’s Sports Task Force during a virtual panel held Feb. 18. ESPN’s Michele Steele delivered his message.

Don Yee

Thanks to all of you for being here tonight. And thanks to STF for providing me with this platform to pass on this message.

I would like to briefly address two topics tonight: one, the process of finding a job, and two, the environment of rising anti-Asian violence we’re seeing around the world.

I feel like I’ve been trying to find a job my entire life; in fact, one of the reasons I have my own business is because I simply couldn’t find a job that would allow me to grow in the way that I wanted, and without compromising my value system.  But while I was looking, I, like many others, went through a lot of rejection, humiliation and embarrassment. There were many, many lows.

I finally came out the other end. And as you begin your job search, there is one trait I have tried to develop within myself, that I believe may help you with your search, and that trait is ‘resilience.’ 

Resilience is kind of the conclusion, so here are the components that you might want to keep in my mind as you consider developing this trait.

  • First, know that rejection is just part of the process – it’s going to happen, but it really does happen to everyone. 
  • Second, generally speaking, rejection isn’t personal. When I was starting out, I used to personalize my failures and immaturely lash out at decision-makers. I finally learned that, generally speaking, sometimes the decision-makers just made a decision that literally had nothing to do with me, but something more positive about someone else.
  • Third, don’t be bashful about asking for help. Learning how to ask for your help is a skill, and if you can overcome any shyness or reluctance, there are a lot of people who are willing to help – even if just a bit. 
  • Fourth, slowly develop your own network or community, and attending this Zoom is a great start.
  • Fifth, be proactive. I would tell myself to just try to do one thing a day that advances me toward my goal; no matter how big or small. I tell my clients all the time that it’s hard to get a rebound if you’re outside the 3-point arc – but if every day you’re inching closer to be under the basket, you increase the chance the ball falls in your hands.

Finally, many of you may be aware of the rising anti-Asian violence. I actually dispute the ‘rising’ part as reported by mainstream media; in my personal experience, there’s always been lots of violence. On a personal note, my barely 5-foot tall mother was mugged twice – from behind – while in her 80’s. I have had many ugly emotions about these events and still do. I still get emotional thinking about it.

I don’t have many answers about what to do, but I do have theories right now. And one is, based on my own experience:  keep self-actualizing, in essence, forming who you really are – be conscious of it.  Ignore prevailing “narratives” on how to think or conforming to something that doesn’t feel authentic to you. Each of you is unique with different talents, and even though I’m not a journalist, I support STF because I see an army of warriors who’ll tell great stories. Maybe, just maybe, the stories will lead to more knowledge, and maybe that helps reduce the violence.

Thank you for your time and allowing me to share this with you.

Yee is one of Sports Task Force’s greatest supporters. He currently provides two annual fellowships to college students and recent graduates interested in sports journalism. Don created the fellowship to honor his parents, Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee.

Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee illustration by Sally Deng