Spark launches investigation into staffer over Black Lives Matter post

Spark has launched a formal investigation into a member of its events team after she made a disparaging remark about Black Lives Matter protesters on social media.

The comment, posted to career networking website LinkedIn, was on a photo of a Māori protester with a tā moko at the Black Lives Matter solidarity march in Auckland last Monday.

One comment urged police to "round them up and throw away the key", while another mocked protesters for not having worked a day in their lives.

The photo, of Auckland father Kia Kanuta, was shared widely on Twitter last week as 'proof' the Auckland protest had a Mongrel Mob presence.

Kanuta, a chef, has no affiliation with the Mongrel Mob or any gang, and told Newshub he was hurt to discover how he had been "profiled and perceived based on my appearance".

After another woman screenshotted the Spark employee's comment and posted it to Twitter, the telecommunications company said the situation "clearly isn't good enough", and that they'd spoken to her about the comment.

However this just stirred greater outrage, with social media users accusing the Spark of "not taking it seriously" and urging it to take action beyond just speaking to her.

In a statement to Newshub, Spark said the comments "in no way represent the views of Spark and are completely inconsistent with our values and our culture".

"We immediately spoke to our employee and she took the posts down," the spokesperson continued. "This is part of a formal investigation to make sure appropriate action is taken."

The company wouldn't comment on whether the employee would lose her job - "as is the case with all individual employee matters" - but vowed it was "taking the matter very seriously".

Spark says it is now working with the employee "to improve her understanding of inclusion".

"We felt it was important for us to help her understand the impact her comments have had, particularly given we have worked very hard to foster a culture that is highly inclusive and this a core part of our strategy," it said.

Last week's Black Lives Matter march in Auckland, which drew thousands of demonstrators, was organised after unarmed African-American man George Floyd died at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Floyd's death has sparked protests across the US and around the world, urging those in power to act to combat racial inequality.