Kiwi presenter is taken off air after mocking a Japanese rugby player with an offensive accent


‘He was leally, leally good’: Kiwi presenter is taken off air after mocking a rugby player with an Asian accent during a post-match interview

  • Sky News Sport commentator Joe Wheeler made the offensive remarks on Friday
  • Wheeler was interviewing Highlanders’ star Mitchell Hunt after their match
  • The 33-year-old commended Japanese international Kazuki Himeno’s game play
  • ‘He was leally impressive, wasn’t he? He was leally, leally good,’ he said to Hunt
  • Wheeler apologised on Twitter later that night following backlash from viewers 

A Kiwi sports presenter has been taken off air after mocking a Japanese rugby player’s accent during a post-match interview.

Former rugby star and Sky News Sport commentator Joe Wheeler made the offensive remark on Friday night following the Highlanders’ win over the Crusaders.

Wheeler was interviewing Highlanders’ star Mitchell Hunt when he commended Japanese international Kazuki Himeno’s game play.

‘He was leally impressive, wasn’t he? He was leally, leally good,’ Wheeler said to Hunt, appearing to mimic Himeno’s Japanese accent.

The 33-year-old apologised for his remarks on Twitter later that night following backlash from rugby fans.

Wheeler was interviewing Highlanders' star Mitchell Hunt when he commended Japanese international Kazuki Himeno's game play

Wheeler was interviewing Highlanders’ star Mitchell Hunt when he commended Japanese international Kazuki Himeno’s game play

Wheeler mocked Japanese international Kazuki Himeno's (pictured) accent while praising his game play

Wheeler mocked Japanese international Kazuki Himeno’s (pictured) accent while praising his game play 

Viewers branded Wheeler's comments 'terrible' and called for him to receive more than just a slap on the wrist as punishment

Viewers branded Wheeler’s comments ‘terrible’ and called for him to receive more than just a slap on the wrist as punishment

‘Tonight I stuffed up!,’ he wrote.

‘I’ve spoken with @teikyo_8 (Kazuki Himeno) and apologised to him and the @Highlanders and our Sky crew.

‘I absolutely accept this is not the standard expected of the sideline team. I’ve got some work to do obviously, but I’m absolutely committed to doing better.’ 

A Sky spokesperson said Wheeler is remorseful and ‘Sky has made it clear where we stand’.

‘Joe has acknowledged that he has some work to do and we’re supporting him through this. Joe is off air at this time,’ the statement read. 

It’s not clear how long the rugby presenter would be off air. 

Sky chief executive Sophie Moloney said the comments were ‘very disappointing’.

‘They are not who we are at Sky, and we need to do better,’ Ms Moloney said in a statement.

Viewers branded Wheeler’s comments ‘terrible’ and called for him to receive more than just a slap on the wrist as punishment. 

The 33-year-old apologised for his remarks on Twitter later that night following backlash from rugby fans

The 33-year-old apologised for his remarks on Twitter later that night following backlash from rugby fans 

Former rugby star and Sky News Sport commentator Joe Wheeler (right) made the offensive remarks on Friday night following the Highlanders' win over the Crusaders

Former rugby star and Sky News Sport commentator Joe Wheeler (right) made the offensive remarks on Friday night following the Highlanders’ win over the Crusaders 

‘All too often folks in these situations get away with a slap on the hand, or a ‘say sorry and it’ll be all good in a day or so’. I sincerely hope that @skysportnz are taking this seriously,’ one woman commented under his apology. 

‘This is extremely half ass, it’s not even an apology… Do better,’ said another.

One man said if he made the same ‘joke’ in his workplace he would get fired. 

‘I appreciate you [were] on a high about a great performance, but it’s not funny to joke about someone speaking in a second language,’ another comment read. 

‘Dude, it’s not just Kazuki Himeno you need to apologise to. Mocking the Asian accent is so hurtful to many of us who are proud of our Asian heritage,’ read another. 

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