The New Zealand Herald
Sky Sports commentator Wheeler off TV screens
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”.