Matchbox Twenty front man Rob Thomas has apologized for making what was perceived as a racist joke during a show over the weekend in Melbourne, Australia.
During a Saturday night concert, an intoxicated Thomas commented on his drunkenness, saying, “I keep drinking until I think I’m a black Australian,” according to Guardian.
Video of the alleged racist joke and other comments was obtained by TMZ:
The remark was interpreted to be a reference to Australia’s Indigenous Aboriginal population, which struggles at near epidemic levels with alcohol addiction.
Fans and other artists, including Indigenous Australian country music singer Troy Cassar-Daley, took issue with the comments.
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
Following the backlash, Thomas took to his Facebook page on Sunday morning to explain and apologize for the comments.
“First, 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,” he wrote. Thomas added:
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 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, explaining that, when he heard members of his audience “groan,” he thought they were being racist, until he was made aware of the racial undertone of his words.
“I sat in my room and I cried when I found out. If I had said it anywhere in the world my intention would have been the same,” he wrote. “To relate 3 seemingly unrelated things that I’m not. Things that have no connection to any stereotypes whatsoever.”
The singer concluded: “I am truly sorry for how this came across, most of all to the indigenous people here … While I’m here I’m going to use this opportunity to rectify that. I promise you this!”
In a separate Facebook post, Thomas wrote, “Everyone who knows me is aware that for the past 20 years I have been a fervent supporter of civil rights.”
He also used his Twitter page Sunday evening to arrange a meeting with Indigenous photographer Barbara McGrady.
@BarbsMac2144 please follow me back so that i can arrange for us to meet in sydney? i would welcome that.
— Rob Thomas (@ThisIsRobThomas) February 21, 2016
In 2015, Guardian reported Indigenous Australians between the ages of 35 and 54 are up to eight times more likely to die from alcohol abuse than their peers.
Additionally, Indigenous people in Australia’s Northern Territory consume around 16.9 liters of pure alcohol a year, compared to the 10 liters consumed by those in the general population.