A New Zealand rugby commentator has apologised after mimicking a Japanese player’s accent following a Super Rugby Aotearoa game.
Speaking after the Otago Highlanders’ 33-12 victory over Canterbury Crusaders, Joe Wheeler highlighted the performance of Highlanders and Japan flanker Kazuki Himeno.
He adopted a fake Japanese accent, with social media users labelling him “immature”, “racist” and “disgusting”.
He later admitted he had “stuffed up”.
“I’ve spoken with [Himeno] and apologised to him and the Highlanders and our Sky crew,” Wheeler said on Twitter.
“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.”
Himeno said on Twitter he accepted Wheeler’s apology.
Wheeler’s actions were condemned by Sky New Zealand chief executive Sophie Moloney, who said the network “will keep striving to reflect and respect everyone in our community”.
Wheeler is a former Highlanders forward who also played for Suntory Sungoliath in the Japanese Top League until 2020.