A New Zealand television commentator who adopted a mock Asian accent during a postgame rugby 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 fly-half 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. 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 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.” 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 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 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.” It's ok joe. Let's enjoy and celebrate our big victory ✌️ Let's go landers!! — 姫野和樹 (@teikyo_8) April 2, 2021 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. The incident comes amid increased anti-Asian violence and rhetoric in the United States and other Western nations.