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Joe Wheeler has been taken off air by New Zealand rugby broadcasters Sky Sport after making highly inappropriate comments about a Japanese player during a post-match interview.
A former player himself, Wheeler was having a chat with Highlanders star Mitchell Hunt following the team's 33-12 victory over the Crusaders.
During the interview, 33-year-old Wheeler was full of praise for Highlanders recruit Kazuki Himeno.
But rather than simply sitting back and applauding the Japanese international's scintillating debut, he decided it was more appropriate to mock his accent instead.
"He was leally impressive, wasn't he? He was leally, leally good," he said during the rather awkward on-field exchange.
Please tell me Joe Wheeler didn't just make a fucking awful Asian accent joke when talking about Kazuki Himeno... pic.twitter.com/OTQRihkFam
- Jamie Wall (@JamieWall2) April 2, 2021
Wheeler copped huge backlash from rugby fans on social media with many calling for him to be axed by Sky Sport for his actions.
One tweeted: "Please tell me Joe Wheeler didn't just make a f***ing awful Asian accent joke when talking about Kazuki Himeno..."
While another added: "Leaving Joe Wheeler to one side, I've always been amazed by how many people who only speak English are prepared to make fun of how bilingual or trilingual people speak English. Deeply weird."
Following the controversial incident, Sky Sport have now made the decision to remove the analyst from air - at least for the meantime.
"Joe Wheeler has apologised for his comments and Sky has made it clear where we stand," a 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."
And it didn't take too long for Wheeler to issue an apology of his own either.
"Tonight I stuffed up," he tweeted straight after last weekend's game.
"I've spoken with Kazuki Himeno and apologised to him and the Highlanders and our Sky crew.
Tonight I stuffed up! I've spoken with @teikyo_8 (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.
- Joey Wheeler (@joey_wheelz) April 2, 2021
"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."
Featured Image Credit: Instagram/@joeywheels
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