A New Zealand television rugby commentator who adopted a mock Asian accent during a post-game interview on Friday is likely to keep his job despite an outpouring of public criticism. (Twitter/Joe Wheeler)

A New Zealand television rugby commentator who adopted a mock Asian accent during a post-game interview on Friday is likely to keep his job despite an outpouring of public criticism. (Twitter/Joe Wheeler)

TV commentator in New Zealand sorry for mocking Asian accent

The incident comes amid a rising tide of anti-Asian violence and rhetoric in the United States and other western nations

A New Zealand television rugby commentator who adopted a mock Asian accent during a post-game interview on Friday is likely to keep his job despite an outpouring of public criticism.

Joe Wheeler, a former New Zealand Maori representative who commentates for the cable network Sky Sport, used the accent after the Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Highlanders and Crusaders.

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

Wheeler’s comments included calling Himeno “leally impressive,” triggering swift protests on social media.

Wheeler later apologized on Twitter.

“Tonight I stuffed up!” he said. “I’ve spoken with (Kazuki Himeno) and apologized 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 reiterated that Wheeler had apologized to Himeno but made no reference to any employment sanction.

“Joe Wheeler has spoken with Kazuki and apologized 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.”

Himeno later indicated he had accepted Wheeler’s apology.

“It’s OK Joe,” he tweeted. “Let’s enjoy and celebrate our big victory.”

The Highlanders won Friday’s match 33-12 after starting as 7-1 outsiders against the unbeaten Crusaders.

Friday’s incident comes amid a rising tide of anti-Asian violence and rhetoric in the United States and other western nations.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Police are advising of a scam actively happening in the Kootenay Boundary, one that involves a person trying to sell the victim gold for cash. Problem is, the gold is fake. Photo: Matt Flores on Unsplash
Fake gold scam re-surfaces in the Kootenay Boundary

Victims are approached in high-traffic areas by someone claiming to need emergency cash

Giant prize-winning pumpkins and squash are standard fare at the Pass Creek Fall Fair. Photo: Betsy Kline
Pass Creek Fall Fair cancelled for 2021

Event cancelled for second time

File photo
Help clean up Castlegar during Pitch-In week

Annual clean-up to take place April 18 - 26

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

Most Read