Matchbox Twenty‘s Rob Thomas has apologized to fans after, he claimed, unintentionally making a racist joke onstage in Melbourne, Australia. During the Saturday night gig, Thomas commented to the crowd about how drunk he was, “I keep drinking until I think I’m a black Australian.” The remark was thought to be a reference to Australia’s Indigenous Aboriginal population.
Soon after the concert, Thomas was met with immediate backlash from his “black Australian” comment, with Australian artists like rapper Briggs attacking Thomas on social media, The Guardian reports. “So The Game gets denied entry to Aus. But Rob Thomas can stand in front of 14k people and dismiss its [Indigenous] population as drunks?,” Briggs tweeted, referencing the fact that the rapper the Game had to cancel an Australian tour over visa issues.
On Sunday, Thomas turned to Facebook to clear up the situation and reiterate that he did not know he was making a racist joke. “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,” Thomas said.
“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.”
It wasn’t until the following day that Thomas learned the magnitude of his onstage joke. “I was so ignorant to the situation that when I heard people groan I actually thought THEY were being racist. I didn’t know until TODAY that just the phrase ‘black Australian’ was racist all on its own. I sat in my room and I cried when I found out,” Thomas said. “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. While I’m here I’m going to use this opportunity to rectify that.”