Matchbox 20 frontman Rob Thomas has been slammed for telling a “racist and insensitive” joke during his performance at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne last night.
Thomas was in the middle of explaining to his audience how he dealt with jet lag during a technical hold-up in his solo performance.
“When you get on the plane, on your way here, you start drinking,” he said.
“I keep drinking until I think I’m Australian.
“And then I keep drinking until I think I’m a black Australian.”
His comments were met with laughter from the crowd — and booing.
Here’s how it played out:
Shortly after the incident, the American singer and songwriter wrote an apology on Facebook saying that he was “completely unaware that in Australia there is a polarizing social issue happening right now involving indigenous people and alcohol”.
Here’s what he said:
After the show in Melbourne tonight while backstage with some of my Australian friends, it was brought to my attention that I said something that is racist and insensitive.
Please understand that although it is no excuse, I was completely unaware that in Australia there is a polarizing social issue happening right now involving indigenous people and alcohol.
When I was made aware of it, the ground fell out beneath me, and I realized that people may now see me as the exact opposite of who I am.
I’m sitting here in my hotel room completely gutted that a joke that I made was much more relevant to the times in Australia than I realized.
I know that words are just words, but to those I offended, I deeply, DEEPLY apologize!
Everyone who knows me is aware that for the past 20 years I have been a fervent supporter of civil rights, so I am incredibly embarrassed by my ignorance.
I feel like a fool and apologize to all Australians.
But it didn’t prevent many from taking to social media to criticise Thomas’ comments saying that his apology was “not enough”:
"I can't believe a white pop singer making a joke about black people & alcoholism didn't go down well" – Rob Thomas's inner monologue.
— Petra Starke (@petstarr) February 20, 2016
— Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana) February 20, 2016
Imagine drinking so much you actually become Rob Thomas.
— Lindsay McDowens (@doctormcdougall) February 21, 2016
— Matt Osborn (@MattOsborn) February 21, 2016
Rob Thomas always came across as a smart Bloke to me, I guess I was wrong.?? pic.twitter.com/e8MbqCHf8l
— Troy Cassar-Daley (@troycassardaley) February 21, 2016
#RobThomas has immense wealth as well as influence with the whitebread radio listening folk. A Facebook apology is seriously not enough.
— Nap champion 2016 (@MsRachyDoodle) February 21, 2016
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