SYDNEY Australian national airline Qantas apologized for posting a picture of two rugby fans wearing Afro wigs and with their faces and arms painted black at an international rugby game after it sparked online outrage.
The photo, briefly run on the Qantas Twitter site, was the result of a competition asking Australian fans to tell how they would show their support for the team and depicted two fans impersonating Fiji-born Australian team player Radike Samo at a Saturday night international game.
"We apologize that the photo of two Radike fans offended some of our followers," Qantas said in a statement.
"We've spoken with Radike and whilst he is not offended we decided to remove the image."
The Twitter community was divided, but many were angered.
"What that image represents to most people is appalling," said one commenter.
Others said the whole issue had been blown out of proportion.
"What is all the fuss about? See things in context not offensive. Good Aussie fun," tweeted another.
Radike, who is a loose forward, said he didn't have any problems with the costumes.
"I don't know what the fuss is all about. These guys were paying me a tribute," he said.
"I was glad to be in a photo with them, so I don't know why anyone is getting worked up. That (sort of reaction) is just silly."
Neighboring New Zealand is set to host the Rugby World Cup from September 9 but Australia beat New Zealand 25-20 in Brisbane Saturday night to win the Tri-Nations title, raising pressure on the two long-term rivals.
(Reporting by Pauline Askin; editing by Elaine Lies)