Racist joke: Matchbox 20 frontman says sorry

SYDNEY • After a backlash that left him in tears, Matchbox 20 frontman Rob Thomas has apologised for saying he was dealing with his jetlag by drinking until he became "a black Australian".

The American Grammy-winning rocker made the poorly received comments that many regarded as racist at a gig in Melbourne on Saturday night.

"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," he told the crowd, according to reports.

After an uproar on social media, he took to Facebook to apologise.

"Please understand that although it is no excuse, I was completely unaware that in Australia there is a polarising social issue happening right now involving indigenous people and alcohol," he said.

"When I was made aware of it, the ground fell out beneath me and I realised that people may now see me as the exact opposite of who I am. I'm sitting here in my hotel room completely gutted that a joke that I made was much more relevant to the times in Australia than I realised. I feel like a fool and apologise to all Australians."

Aborigines have lived in Australia for at least 40,000 years and number 670,000 out of a population of 24 million. They have long had significantly lower education, employment and life expectancy than non-indigenous communities, with drug and alcohol abuse a key problem.

Matchbox 20 rose to international fame with their debut album Yourself Or Someone Like You in 1996.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2016, with the headline 'Racist joke: Matchbox 20 frontman says sorry'. Print Edition | Subscribe