Matchbox 20 frontman apologises for race joke


Sydney (AFP)

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

The American Grammy Award-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 news reports.

After a social media uproar, 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 just 670,000 out of a total population of 24 million.

They have long had significantly lower education, employment and life expectancy compared to non-indigenous communities, with drug and alcohol abuse a key problem.

In a further post on Monday, Thomas, who also performs as a solo artist, attempted to explain the "joke".

"I made a comment about drinking so much on the long flight over that I started to think I was something I'm not," he said.

When he discovered his comments were seen as offensive, "I sat in my room and I cried", he said.

"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."

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