Australian channel sorry for Hitler pic in TV report on rugby game’s ‘fake fans’
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Australian channel sorry for Hitler pic in TV report on rugby game’s ‘fake fans’

Fox Sports Australia apologizes after show superimposes image of Nazi leader over cardboard cutouts that have been populating stadiums amid pandemic

In this Dec. 5, 1931 photo, Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialists, is saluted as he leaves the party's Munich headquarters (AP Photo, File)
In this Dec. 5, 1931 photo, Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialists, is saluted as he leaves the party's Munich headquarters (AP Photo, File)

A sports broadcaster has apologized for using an image of Adolf Hitler while showing highlights of a National Rugby League game on Sunday.

Fox Sports Australia issued an apology, saying it was concerned about a digitally manipulated image shown during the “Sunday Night with Matty Johns” program.

A superimposed black-and-white image of Hitler was shown during a segment that focused on the cardboard cutouts that are being used on some seats in stadiums. No spectators are allowed to attend NRL matches during the coronavirus pandemic. There was no image of Hitler at the stadium during the game.

The apologies followed public complaints, including criticism posted on Twitter from Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin, about the “casualization of Hitler, Nazis, and by extension their crimes.”

Johns said he called the New South Wales state Jewish Board of Deputies to apologize and planned to apologize on the air during his next TV program on Thursday.

“The segment … was in poor taste and completely inappropriate,” Johns, a former top-flight player and now commentator, said in a statement. “I acknowledge it was wrong and I apologize to our viewers and to everyone in the community who is rightly concerned and offended by the segment.”

Fox Sports Australia said it was reviewing the circumstances and “examining the action we need to ensure those involved understand it is not acceptable.

“We sincerely apologize for the offence the image has caused.”

Supporters are barred from stadiums under strict health protocols, but can pay Aus$22 (US$15) to have their photo printed on a life-size cutout and placed in the stands of their team’s home venue.

Dominic Cummings political adviser to Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at the back entrance to Downing Street in London, May 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

While most played by the rules, TV viewers spotted some anomalies as cameras panned over the fake fans, including a dog and another showing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s embattled top aide Dominic Cummings.

Cummings sparked a political scandal when newspapers discovered that he left London and took a cross-country trip to stay on his parents’ property during Britain’s strict coronavirus lockdown.

But it was a cutout of infamous serial killer Harold Shipman, known as “Dr. Death,” at Sunday’s clash between the Penrith Panthers and Newcastle Knights that caused concerns.

Shipman was an English doctor who in 2000 was found guilty of murdering 15 patients, although he is widely believed to have killed more than 200.

Some found it amusing, but others did not.

In a statement to Australian media, the NRL said: “We are reviewing the vetting process for Fan In The Stand. The weekend was a trial run and trials are designed to iron out issues.”

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