Robbie McEwen apologises for on-air homophobic slur during GCN Giro commentary

McEwen claims he 'unintentionally' used an offensive phrase, yet liked a tweet that found his comment funny.

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GCN and Robbie McEwen have apologised after the latter said a homophobic slur live on-air during coverage of the Giro d’Italia.

The retired sprinter, who says he was “axed” from commentary duties on SBS Australia earlier this year, got picked up by GCN in March to become part of their 2022 broadcast team.

During stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia, McEwen and Dan Lloyd were handing commentary duties back over to Rob Hatch and Sean Kelly after the latter pair’s lunch break. Hatch then shared an anecdote about how he and Kelly had spotted a fudge shop on their way back to the studio and how he’d eaten the majority of it before their return to commentary duties.

“You’ve gone in the fudge shop and you’ve consumed it straight away,” McEwen chimed in. “I mean, the fudge packers were wasting their time.”

Dan Lloyd quickly moved the conversation on, McEwen’s comments were left unchallenged, but viewers had heard the 49-year-old. “Did he really just say that?” asked one person on Twitter, others also expressing disbelief at what had been said.

Following the stage, won by Biniam Girmay, no apologies were issued. The full replay of the day’s live coverage is usually made available online by early evening but stage 10 was missing. The next morning, the replay was now available, but not the English commentary version.

Two days after the incident, on stage 12, it was still radio silence from GCN and McEwen.

“How does a young potential fan of this sport feel tuning in to hear a prominent commentator say a really common and deeply unpleasant slur, even accidentally, and more importantly what does the subsequent non-response and attempt to just ignore the issue say to that fan?” another viewer commented.

Almost exactly 48 hours later, as chatter on social media grew and clips of what had been said began to circulate, GCN issued an apology.

“Cycling is a sport for all & everyone should feel welcome,” GCN said. “We chose not to publish Stage 10 coverage until an offensive phrase was removed and we apologise to anyone offended during the broadcast. The full stage will soon be available in English without this section of commentary.”

Half an hour later, after McEwen had handed over stage 12 commentary to Hatch and Kelly, the Australian also issued a statement.

“I unintentionally used an offensive phrase during my commentary on Stage 10, and I regret both saying it and not immediately apologising on air,” McEwen said. “I’m genuinely sorry for the language I used, and for letting the team down, but mostly I want to say sorry to anyone who I offended.”

A GCN spokesperson directed CyclingTips to McEwen’s Twitter statement when asked for comment from their commentator, while a further statement from the broadcaster was not forthcoming.

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