Channel Nine rugby league presenter Erin Molan is facing renewed backlash after being criticised for mocking the names of players from Pacific Island nations.
In a segment with 2GB radio’s ‘The Continuous Call’ recently, Molan was on air with Darryl Brohman and Mark Levy when she sparked controversy with an ill-conceived joke at the expense of Polynesian players
Discussing the pronunciation of Pacific Islander names in the NRL, Molan said ‘hooka looka mooka hooka fooka’ - prompting her confused co-hosts to quickly change the subject.
The incident caused outrage in the rugby league community with New Zealand and Manly star Martin Taupau among those in the game to condemn the presenter.
Molan claimed that the comment was meant to be a harmless in-joke with her colleagues, unaware at how offensive it actually was to Polynesian players.
Now New Zealand-born Samoa rugby star Augustino Junior Poluleuligaga has called on players to boycott being involved in broadcasts with Molan, until she issues an apology.
“I hope the poly boys in the NRL decline her when being asked to do an interview or anything to do with her until she apologises," he wrote.
"I know how it feels. It used to make me feel embarrassed + angry when I should have been feeling proud along with my family. Inside joke my ass."
I hope the poly boys in the NRL decline her when being asked to do an interview or anything to do with her until she apologizes. I know how it feels. It used to make me feel embarrassed + angry when I should have been feeling proud along with my family. Inside joke my ass 👊🏽 https://t.co/VmQYME1e1x— Tino Junior Poluleuligaga (@JIP2EZY) June 8, 2020
Molan had an opportunity to issue an apology on Sunday when she hosted Channel Nine's Sunday Footy Show.
The fact that the TV host failed to do so, prompted another wave of backlash from viewers, many of whom accused her of perpetuating “racism”.
@Erin_Molan Pacific Islanders want nothing to do with her until an apology. Embarrassing people because of their surnames is Grade 2 behaviour. @NRL how long will you continue to support this passive racism from your TV host @NRLonNine https://t.co/hyHRR0xNQL— Ian Ludwick (@ian_ludwick) June 8, 2020
You should be working on an apology.. or is embracing 2nd gen racism the aim for your family? You mock Pacific Islander names, but atleast those names don’t have google finds of racism. #NoToRacism— Masina (@masina_kimoana) June 7, 2020
1pm update: Erin Molan's wikipedia has been returned to normal. still no update on any forthcoming apology to 45 per cent of nrl players.— jack gramenz (@JackGramenz) June 7, 2020
Molan’s comments deemed deeply disrespectful
Taupau, who is also of Samoan heritage, said his grandfather would be ‘turning in his grave’ over Molan’s insensitive remark.
“Understandable for our non-Pasifika community attempting to properly announce our names, but to disrespect and make a mockery of former/current Pasifika players in the NRL like how you carried on is DISGRACEFUL!” Taupau wrote.
“My grandfather would be tossing in his grave in anger!”
Understandable for our non-Pasifika community attempting to properly announce our names, but to disrespect and make a mockery of former/current Pasifika players in the NRL like how you carried on is DISGRACEFUL! My grandfather would be tossing in his grave in anger!🤬@Erin_Molan https://t.co/CTMuzHEatl— Martin Taupau (@MartyKapow) June 5, 2020
Cronulla forward Braden Hamlin-Uele took to his Instagram story to criticise Molan, suggesting if she didn’t understand what her words meant, she should get off the air.
“An inside joke? Show some respect!,” Hamlin-Uele said in an Instagram story.
“If that’s a joke between colleagues then F that workplace. Get out of the job @ErinMolan.
“Disgusting to even think that would be ok, to put on an accent and say that. Wake up to yourself.”
Molan and Channel 9 have defended the gaffe, telling the Daily Mail the former Footy Show host was just referencing an earlier story Brohman had told and that any perceived racial insensitivity on Molan’s part was just a ‘misunderstanding’.
The backlash to Molan’s comments has been significant, with Pacific Island and Indigenous journalists in particular appalled by their Channel 9 colleague’s words.
NITV reporter Madeline Hayman-Reber said Molan clearly did not understand why what she had said was deeply offensive.
“A disgusting display of racism made even more racist by her failure to recognise, understand, or learn. This is white Australia,” she wrote.
ABC presenter Tali Aualiitia said being able to pronounce Pacific Island names was part of Molan’s job, not a punchline.
“Erin Molan works in rugby league and, there are a bloody lot of Pacific players. It’s literally her job to say these names and, to do the work to same them right,” Aualiitia wrote.
On radio we say a lot of Pacific names - I know they’re not easy - but, we try really, really hard to get them right. I’ve watched presenters practice and practice the names and then not get them 100% right and be really disappointed with themselves when they get off air— Tali Aualiitia (@taliaualiitia) June 5, 2020
“What she fails to understand, is that a Pacific name is not just a surname. It’s your ancestors, your village, your people, your country.
“We wear our names with pride and they are not there to be made a mockery of – even as a joke with your co-worker.”