Rob Thomas of the band Matchbox Twenty came under fire recently for making a joke during a gig in Australia that many people considered racist, E! Online reports. The comment was first revealed in a video posted on TMZ. The video shows the Matchbox Twenty singer having a casual chat with the audience during a technical hold-up during the show.
— E! Online (@eonline) February 21, 2016
“When you get on the plane on your way here, you start drinking,” Thomas said while he was onstage. “And then I drink till I think I’m Australian. And then I keep drinking till I think I’m a black Australian.”
As you can expect, the comment was met with laughter but also some boos and groans according to E! Online:
“Don’t be racist,” he said.
Thomas continued talking, undeterred.
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
“And then I drink until I think I’m a pretty little girl,” he continued, drawing laughs. “And then my wife starts to get worried about me and I stop drinking for a minute.”
Rob Thomas is on tour promoting his new solo album, The Great Unknown, and was performing at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Saturday.
— Matt Osborn (@MattOsborn) February 21, 2016
Rob Thomas has since stated that he “cried” when he realized the gravity of what he said. And after loads of backlash via social media, he also issued an “apology,” via his Facebook page. He claims that he 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,” he said. “Embarrassingly, I truly didn’t.”
He also said that the joke was meant to denigrate himself and not a particular race of people.
“The joke I made was meant to be at no one’s expense but my own. 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’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.”
He said that he did not previously understand the the term “black Australian” is considered racist. When the crowd reacted to his statement, he said he thought they were being racist.
“I didn’t know until TODAY that just the phrase ‘black Australian’ was racist all on it’s own,” he said. “I sat in my room and I cried when I found out.”
Here’s more of what Rob Thomas said in his apology on Facebook.
“I am truly sorry for how this came across, most of all to the indigenous people here,” he continued. “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. While I’m here I’m going to use this opportunity to rectify that. I promise you this!”
As People Magazine reports, some Rob Thomas fans commented that they were appreciative of the fact that Rob took the time to apologize for his comment.
” I am very glad to read you’re going to take time to learn about Aboriginal culture while you’re here. Thank you for listening, and for being honest, remorseful and open to learning,” one fan reportedly said.
But some did not think his apology was enough at all.
— Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana) February 20, 2016
[Photo by Michael Loccisano/ Getty Images]