A British reality series only just managed to premiere a new season before running into controversy, and the result is the show being taken off the air. The Chop: Britain's Top Woodworker (not to be confused with an American reality show with a similar premise) premiered on October 15, featuring a contestant with prominent facial tattoos, and those tattoos landed the contestant and the Sky History show in hot water with viewers who raised their objections.
Sky History's The Chop: Britain's Top Woodworker premiered with Darren Lumsden as a contestant, joining nine others in attempting to quite literally chop (and whittle and carve) their way to a victory. After Sky History tweeted a clip of the show on October 19, users on social media picked up on Lumsden's tattoos and suggested that they have white supremacist meanings.
As a result, Sky History has released a statement regarding Darren Lumsden's tattoos (via Deadline), saying:
While we investigate the nature, and meaning, of Darren’s tattoos, we have removed the video featuring him from our social media pages, and will not be broadcasting any episodes of The Chop: Britain’s Top Woodworker until we have concluded that investigation. Sky HISTORY stands against racism and hate speech of all kinds.
While Sky History hasn't ruled out The Chop resuming its current season featuring Darren Lumsden, viewers shouldn't expect to see new episodes on the airwaves until an investigation is concluded. This statement follows previous comments from the network, seemingly attempting to debunk claims that the tattoos reflect white supremacist views.
The most prominent facial tattoo is of a number 88 on Darren Lumsden's cheek, and 88 is known as a numerical code for "Heil Hitler." A&E Networks UK, which owns Sky History, previously stated that the numbers actually represented the year of Lumsden's father's death in 1988.
The company further said that the production team found "no affiliations or links to racist groups, views or comments" in the "extensive background checks" into the woodworker contestants, including Darren Lumsden. Viewers weren't entirely satisfied with the explanation, however:
One person on Twitter went above and beyond noting the "88" tattoo. Author and geneticist Adam Rutherford, who wrote a book called How to Argue With a Racist, evaluated Darren Lumsden's facial tattoos and suggested on social media that even more of his ink represents white supremacist views via numerals.
For now, whether or not Darren Lumsden's run as a contestant on The Chop makes it to the airwaves seemingly hinges on the results of Sky History's investigation. Depending on how long Lumsden lasted in the competition during production, which had a similar format to Great British Bake-Off (which itself could not be stopped even by the COVID-19 pandemic), it might be possible to edit around him and still air the season.
American Ninja Warrior edited out a ninja after he was arrested for sex crimes, although he wasn't likely to be a major part of the season. If Darren Lumsden lasted well into the competition, and if Sky History's investigation confirms viewer suspicions about his tattoos, then it's possible that the season will never air beyond its premiere last week.