Wheeler's offensive accent drew sharp criticism on social media where users described them as "disgusting", "disgraceful" and "plain dumb".

New Zealand television commentator Joe Wheeler.
New Zealand television commentator Joe Wheeler. (Screenshot/YouTube/AllBlacks)

A New Zealand television presenter has publicly apologised for using a mock Asian accent when referring to Otago Highlanders's Japanese international Kazuki Himeno after a Super Rugby Aotearoa match.

Joe Wheeler, a former Highlander who also played for Suntory Sungoliath in the Japanese Top League, was discussing Himeno's performance with Highlanders flyhalf Mitchell Hunt.

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

He put on the offensive accent while talking about the player on Sky Sport NZ, and it drew sharp criticism on social media where users described them as "disgusting", "disgraceful", and "plain dumb".

Wheeler later tweeted that he had met with Himeno and apologised to him.

 Himeno replied to the tweet saying he accepted the apology.

"It's ok joe. Let's enjoy and celebrate our big victory," the 17-Test Japanese loose forward said.

A Sky Sport statement reiterated that Wheeler had apologised 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.”

Sky NZ's chief executive Sophie Moloney said Wheeler's comments were "very disappointing".

Source: AFP