TVB denies that host’s ‘African gorilla’ comment on Ugandan Olympian was racist

The 24-year-old Ugandan runner pounded his chest on the victory podium after winning gold in the 5,000 meter event. Photo: Instagram/Joshua Cheptegei
The 24-year-old Ugandan runner pounded his chest on the victory podium after winning gold in the 5,000 meter event. Photo: Instagram/Joshua Cheptegei

TVB has defended a sports commentator who made a remark about African gorillas after a Ugandan Olympic medalist won gold, denying that the comment was racist.

The broadcaster’s statement, shared by local media Monday, was a response to criticism towards a commentator reporting on Joshua Cheptegei’s victory in the men’s 5000m event.

As Cheptegei stood on the podium to receive his medal Friday night, the 24-year-old pounded his chest dramatically in a fit of excitement. “Are these what African gorillas are like?” the commentator said. A co-host added that it was a “gesture of victory.”

“Our network’s commentator… only made an objective description, and [this] did not constitute any form of discrimination or slander,” TVB said in a statement published by Stand News.

Coconuts has reached out to TVB for comment but has not received a response at the time of writing.

Read more: Olympic medalist declines Carrie Lam’s congratulatory call during live TV interview

In an interview published after Cheptegei’s win, the athlete explained his chest pounding gesture. He said that he “represent[s] the gorillas, the silverback”—referring to the name for the male leader and protector of a mountain gorilla family.

The mountain gorilla is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with about 600 mature individuals, meaning those believed to be capable of reproduction, left in the world.

About half of the species’ population live in Uganda’s national parks, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

On Instagram, Cheptegei occasionally hashtags his posts with “#silverback” and “#silverbackdreams.” An ambassador of Uganda’s tourism board, the athlete dedicated a post to introducing the rare species in May, sharing a picture of him standing in front of a troop of mountain gorillas.

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