Amid a fiery backlash that included accusations of anti-Asian bias, New York Times sports reporter Andrew Keh has defended his use of the word “overrepresented” in describing the presence of Asian Americans in figure skating.
Keh, who is Asian American, found himself in hot water last weekend after writing an article published on Feb. 8 titled “The Asian American Pipeline in Figure Skating.” The story featured statements from prominent Asian American skaters, including Tiffany Chin, Kristi Yamaguchi, Naomi Nari Nam, Nathan Chen, Karen Chen, Alysa Liu and Vincent Zhou.
In the article, Keh claims that figure skating, which was “almost uniformly white” until the 1990s, has gradually transformed to become “plainly an Asian American sport.” The description of this evolution, amidst recent calls for greater representation of Asian Americans across many industries, led to Keh’s controversial word choice.
“In the United States, a country where Asians and sports are not often intertwined in the popular imagination, figure skating is now plainly an Asian American sport. Asians make up around 7% of the American population but have become vividly overrepresented in ice rinks and competitions at every level, from coast to coast,” Keh wrote.
The pushback from readers kicked off after the New York Times posted the statement to Twitter on Thursday. Many criticized Keh’s claim while suggesting there was actually a lack of Asians in just about every field beyond figure skating.
Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s wife Evelyn Yang also took to the social media platform to explain why she thought the terminology was harmful:
Meanwhile, former U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank Curtis S. Chin posed an analogy using the NFL and NBA:
Conservatives also weighed in to charge the Times with anti-Asian racism, including the Washington Times and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex):
Keh responded to the backlash in a tweet on Thursday night, explaining that there was “no judgment baked into [his choice]” of “overrepresented” and that it was purely based on statistical context:
In another tweet, he took the opportunity to explain his use of the adverb “vividly”:
NextShark has reached out to Keh for comment.