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29 August 2017

Australian channel apologises for ‘racist’ rugby video

Samoan rugby league players before a World Cup match in 2008Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Former Samoan international Nigel Vagana (centre) criticised the “Footy Kids in Cars” video

An Australian television channel has apologised and deleted a video after it was accused of “casual racism” against Pacific Islanders.

The clip, on the popular Fox Sports Matty Johns Show, showed small children attempting to pronounce the ‘funniest’ player names in the NRL (National Rugby League), most of which being Pacific Islander surnames, 9News network reports.

But the “Footy Kids in Cars” video has not gone down well with players. Former Samoa international Frank Puletua told 9News he was “disappointed that a segment like that got to air without any sort of thought about how it might be perceived by people in Pacific Island league communities.”

Most vocal was Anastastia Nimo Tagataese, wife of current player Sam Tagataese, who wrote in a Facebook post that “casual racism is not OK”.

Writing that she believed there was no malice intended in the video, she told her social media followers that “having parents laugh with their children because they are unable to pronounce Pacific Islander surnames is completely disrespectful”.

Not innocent fun

Nigel Vagana, who has represented both New Zealand and Samoa as well as serving a stint for the Warrington Wolves in the UK, criticised any idea that the segment was innocent fun, saying that such things could normalise abuse against Polynesian children in schools.

“Are we saying it’s alright for those kids to go to school and be mocked by their surname because it was okay on TV the night before?” he asked New Zealand’s Stuff news website.

Addressing the incident on his Monday night show, Matty Johns said “it was never the intention to disrespect anybody, particularly people in the Polynesian community.

“I’d like to apologise for any hurt or offence we have caused, and we have caused offence and we have caused hurt and I acknowledge that,” Sportingnews.com quoted the Fox Sports presenter as saying.

Image copyright
Fox Sports

Image caption

The video showed parents laughing as children tried to pronounce player names. Dene Halatau is of Niuean descent

Reporting by Alistair Coleman

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