'Yellow Fever' Olympic Headline Causes Uproar; Media Site Says Term's Not Racist

Posted: Updated:

We all cheer on Olympic athletes for their strength and skill, but let's face it, they're also admired for their looks and physique.

Which is probably why media site NextShark decided to share some images of "China's Hottest Olympic Swimmer," Ning Zetao. But something went awry. When everyone should ostensibly have been admiring 23-year-old Zetao's photogenic ways, Facebook and Twitter users were appalled by the headline beneath the images.

"Forget Zika Virus -- China's Hottest Olympic Swimmer is Giving the Internet Yellow Fever." it read. The headline was a reference to the slang term that is commonly used to describe a person's sexual attraction to someone of Asian descent — and was not a reference to the African virus.

"Yellow fever" is often seen as problematic because it's the cultural fetishization of Asians — a non-Asian person has yellow fever if they like to date or have sex with Asians exclusively, which calls into question racial and ethnic stereotypes, and whether non-Asian people who date exclusively Asian are really seeing the individual for who they are.

Twitter users were quick to note the term's racist connotations, but some Facebook users who self-identified as Asian on Nextshark's page defended the use of it, saying they weren't offended by its use in the headline.

Some users commented that the use of the term plays into old stereotypes that Asian men aren't considered good-looking:

Others noted that the headline not only used a questionable term but also minimized the serious health issue of the Zika virus that is currently affecting thousands in Brazil and in other countries.

And still others noted that, even if readers weren't personally offended, it didn't mean the term should have been used in the first place:

On Thursday, NextShark published a follow up to their original story, stating that according to Asians, "yellow fever" is not and never was a derogatory term. They also justified their headline by stating it was written by an Asian person who was one among a team of Asians.

"We at NextShark certainly don’t believe it’s racist, and it might have to do with the fact that everyone involved in writing the article and headline is Asian," wrote NextShark blogger and editor Waylae Gregoire . "In fact, if you read our About Page, we’re a site focusing on the Asian market with an Editorial Team that’s made up of literally all Asians."

Though they did not apologize for using the term, NextShark did thank the offended readers for being quick to defend Asians and Asian culture, asking them to "never stop that good fight because the battle is far from over.

Also on HuffPost:

Canadian Athletes To Watch At Rio Olympics 2016
Share this
Current Slide

Suggest a correction