Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas has publicly apologised after being criticised for a racist joke he made about Indigenous Australians at his Melbourne solo show last night.
Footage of Thomas’ joke, which was captured at the first concert of his current Australian tour at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, sees the singer-songwriter use a brief technical interruption to tell fans about how he approaches long-haul flights.
“I’ve been doing it for so long, I’ve got the jet lag figured out,” Thomas says. “What you do is, when you get on the plane on your way here, you start drinking. And then I drink until I think I’m Australian. And I keep drinking until I think I’m a black Australian.”
Video of the joke (below) sees Thomas’ comment met with both laughter and some audible groans from the Melbourne crowd, before he continues on with the show.
Following his Melbourne concert, Thomas took to Facebook to apologise to all Australians for his onstage remarks, saying, “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.”
In his post, Thomas says he’s “completely gutted” that the joke was “more relevant” than he realised. “I know that words are just words, but to those I offended, I deeply, DEEPLY apologize,” he says.
“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.”
Despite his Facebook apology, Thomas has seen some fans criticise him in the comments, including…
…while others have reacted differently:
Catch footage of Thomas’ joke about Indigenous Australians alongside his full apology, below.
Rob Thomas’ 2016 Australian tour is set to move around the rest of the country until 6th March, in support of his first new solo album in six years, The Great Unknown.
Watch: Rob Thomas’ Racist Joke About Indigenous Australians (Melbourne, 20/02/16)