The New Zealand Herald

Sky Sports commentato­r Wheeler off TV screens

- Neil Reid

Former rugby star Joe Wheeler is off air after his controvers­ial post-match comments making fun of a Japanese player.

The Sky Sport commentato­r shocked viewers during a post-match interview on Friday night following the Highlander­s’ 33-12 win over the Crusaders.

While interviewi­ng Highlander­s’ first five-eighths Mitchell Hunt, he praised the play of Japanese internatio­nal Kazuki Himeno; but did so using a mock-Asian accent.

“He was leally impressive, wasn’t he? He was leally, leally good,” Wheeler said to Hunt.

Wheeler’s comments lead to an avalanche of condemnati­on from Sky Sport viewers.

Race Relations Commission­er Meng Foon also came out against them on Saturday, saying they were hurtful and had no place in society.

As the Super Rugby Aotearoa prepares for this weekend’s clashes — with the Highlander­s playing the Chiefs on Saturday, and the Hurricanes facing the Cursaders on Sunday — a spokespers­on for Sky said Wheeler would not be behind a microphone. “Joe Wheeler has apologised for his comments and Sky has made it clear where we stand,” the spokespers­on said. “Joe has acknowledg­ed that he has some work to do and we’re supporting him through this. Joe is off air at this time.”

About an hour after making his controvers­ial comments, Wheeler took to social media to apologise. He wrote on Twitter that he had “stuffed up” and had spoken and apologised to Himeno. That tweet was followed by a statement from Sky. In it, the broadcaste­r wrote that Wheeler “absolutely accepts this is not the standard expected of the broadcast team”.

 ??  ?? Off the box right now — Sky Sport’s Joe Wheeler.
Off the box right now — Sky Sport’s Joe Wheeler.

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