Tennis

Top-ranked Kiwi tennis player apologises for party pūkana

www.stuff.co.nz

Ajeet Rai, seen here in a 2020 Davis Cup match in Auckland, has been called out for performing pūkana at a party.

Greg Moller/ Tennis NZ

Ajeet Rai, seen here in a 2020 Davis Cup match in Auckland, has been called out for performing pūkana at a party.

A New Zealand Davis Cup tennis player has apologised after being filmed mocking Māori culture.

Taranaki’s Ajeet Rai, 22, is to be sanctioned by Tennis New Zealand after videos of him performing pūkana were posted on social media.

The videos appeared following celebrations after the America’s Cup win on Wednesday night, with Rai, New Zealand’s third ranked tennis player, and other party goers laughing as they did pūkana and used a stick as a taiaha.

The party, on a $21 million boat owned by Zuru founder Nick Mowbray, included music by Belgian DJ Netsky, who posted the initial video of several people performing pūkana. He has since apologised and removed the video.

READ MORE:
* Belgian DJ Netsky apologises for ‘cultural appropriation’ after mock haka video

A definition on maoridictionary.co.nz, states pūkana is “to stare wildly, dilate the eyes – done by both genders when performing haka and waiata to emphasise particular words and to add excitement to the performance”.

Rai was not performing a haka or a waiata in the video, and there has been no explanation around the context of why he and others were performing pūkana.

Rai could not be reached on Friday, but in a post on his instagram account he apologised to everyone who was offended or hurt by his actions.

‘’As a representative of New Zealand, I have always been proud to perform the Haka and show the world how incredible and beautiful our indigenous culture is. Being a minority in New Zealand myself I should have known better and will be better moving forward.’’

Ajeet Rai posted an apology for his part in the Netsky pūkana video on his Instagram story.

Jeetyrai/Stuff

Ajeet Rai posted an apology for his part in the Netsky pūkana video on his Instagram story.

Tennis New Zealand posted a message on instagram saying it was ‘’extremely disappointed’’. On Friday chief executive Julie Paterson said the statement was their official response.

‘’Tennis NZ condemns all discriminatory behaviour, and we do not condone racial harassment in any way. We will work with the athlete in question to ensure that not only does this situation not occur again, but that appropriate sanctions will be applied,’’ the statement read.

Rai, right, was among a number of people criticised for performing pūkana.

NETSKY/Stuff

Rai, right, was among a number of people criticised for performing pūkana.

Shaneel Lal, cofounder of End Conversion Therapy NZ and anti-racism advocate, saw the video on Netsky’s social media page, posted it to their​ page and sent a link to Tennis New Zealand.

Lal, of iTaukei (Fijian) and Girmit (Indian) descent, said they​ weren’t shocked when they first saw the video because this type of behaviour was so common.

‘’I’ve got people yelling ‘stop cancel culture’ at me. My response is this is not cancel culture this is consequence culture.’’

The people concerned chose to do what they did, they said.

‘’Unfortunately, we had a person of colour, an ethnic minority participating.’’

And Lal said that the people had been drinking alcohol wasn’t an excuse.

‘’Does drinking make you racist? If it does why do you drink? Either way it was a choice.’’

Lal said they had received many comments saying the incident wasn’t racist. But white people can’t be an authority on what is racist and what isn’t, they said.

Rai was New Zealand Singles Male Junior Player of the year in 2018.

ANDY JACKSON/Stuff

Rai was New Zealand Singles Male Junior Player of the year in 2018.

On Thursday Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer called the video “disgraceful”.

“It’s sad to see that the ignorance … They are, dare I say, stereotyping.”

www.stuff.co.nz

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