Matchbox 20 frontman Rob Thomas has apologised for an alleged racist joke he told at a gig over the weekend.
The singer was performing a solo concert in Melbourne on Saturday (February 20) when he told the crowd: “I keep drinking until I think I’m a black Australian”.
The Guardian reports that Thomas’ comments were deemed by many as a reference to Australia’s Indigenous Aboriginal, with critics speaking out against his seemingly discriminatory phrasing.
Country singer Troy Cassar-Daley tweeted: “Rob Thomas always came across as a smart bloke to me, I guess I was wrong”.
Rapper Briggs added: “So @thegame gets denied entry to Aus. But @ThisIsRobThomas can stand in front of 14k people and dismiss it’s Indig. population as drunks?” Hip-hop star The Game was recently deported from the country for touring with the wrong visa.
Writing on Facebook following the incident, Thomas said that he “would like to take an opportunity to further explain the comments”, asking fans to “please understand that I did not intend to make a joke ABOUT race. I have seen people comment that after coming here for so long I should know that there is a connection between the indigenous peoples of Australia and a stereotype involving drinking. Embarrassingly, I truly didn’t.”
“The joke I made was meant to be at no one’s expense but my own,” he added. “I made a comment about drinking so much on the long flight over that I started to think I was something I’m not.”
“I said I drank until I thought I was Australian. Then I drank so much that I thought I was a black Australian and then I drank so much I thought I was a little Australian girl. These were 3 things I chose at random to represent 3 things I’m not. I’m not Australian. I’m not black and I’m not a little girl. Again, if I had any idea of the stereotype I would have chosen another example. There was absolutely no malice even in jest.”
Thomas continued: “I didn’t know until TODAY that just the phrase ‘black Australian’ was racist all on it’s own. I sat in my room and I cried when I found out… I am truly sorry for how this came across, most of all to the indigenous people here. Australia has been so good to me for so long that I’m embarrassed I don’t know more about the history and the culture.”
Thomas later addressed criticism surrounding the incident on Twitter, arranging to meet Indigenous photographer Barbara McGrady and communicating with writer Siv Parker.