Rugby commentator Joe Wheeler taken off air after mocking accent of Asian player

Source: 1News

Former Super Rugby player Joe Wheeler has been taken off air by Sky Sport after his controversial post-match comments mocking an Asian accent last Friday.

Sky Sport commentator Joe Wheeler.

Wheeler, a former New Zealand Māori representative, used the accent after the Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Highlanders and Crusaders.

Speaking with Highlanders first-five Mitchell Hunt, Wheeler referenced the performance of Japan international flanker Kazuki Himeno, who started for the Highlanders for the first time.

Wheeler's comments included calling Himeno "leally impressive," triggering swift protests on social media.

Wheeler later apologised on Twitter.

"Tonight I stuffed up!" he said. "I've spoken with [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."

Wheeler played Super Rugby for both the Crusaders and Highlanders and played in Japan for four years for Suntory Sungoliath.

A Sky Sport statement last week reiterated that Wheeler had apologised to Himeno but made no reference to any employment sanction.

"Joe Wheeler has spoken with Kazuki and apologised to him and to team management," the statement said.

"He absolutely accepts this is not the standard expected of the broadcast team.

"Sky is committed to being culturally respectful and we expect all crew to do the right thing."

The broadcaster told 1 NEWS Wheeler had been stood down.

“Joe Wheeler has apologised for his comments 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.”