By Amy McQuire and Chris Graham
NATIONAL: Qantas Airways, an iconic company which promotes itself as the “spirit of Australia”, encouraged two men to dress up in blackface and attend a major international sporting event, then posted the evidence of the marketing stunt on Twitter.
The airline last week ran a competition to win two tickets to last night’s sold-out Bledisloe Cup clash between the Wallabies and the All Blacks.
It called on followers via its official Twitter account to “tell us how you will show your support for the Wallabies at the match”.
In response, Twitter user Charles Butler, who goes by the alias of @Pek_anan, wrote “we will dress as Radike Samo. Compete with Afro Wig, Aus rugby kit and facepaint”.
Radike Samo is an Australian player of Fijian heritage.
The men made good on their promise, and were awarded the tickets to the match.
Earlier today, Qantas Airways posted a picture of Charles Butler, his face, legs and arms covered in black paint, stating that it “looks like our Twitter winners of the Bledisloe Cup tix lived up to their promise! Good work @pek_anan”.
Butler also posted a picture of himself and his friend with Mr Samo.
But the pictures soon sparked a Twitter revolt.
One user, John Carney, wrote to Qantas, stating that he was “not so much offended as utterly gobsmacked that blackface is still seen as acceptable by some”.
Another user – Lainey – also wrote to Qantas, slamming the airline for “backing such ignorance”.
Qantas has today deleted the picture and apologised, stating it had spoken to Mr Samo.
“We apologise the photo of 2 Radike fans offended people. We’ve spoken with Radike and whilst he has no issue with it we have removed the image,” the tweet said.
Qantas also apologized to several Twitter users who raised concerns.
Mr Butler has also posted an apology on his Twitter account, stating he is “deeply sorry” and that it “was only our intention to show support for Radike Samo”.
Tracker is still seeking comment from Qantas, and from Mr Butler.
The scandal comes just two years after Chanel Nine’s Hey Hey Its Saturday sparked international condemnation when it aired a blackface skit.
The show depicted five men, their faces blackened, performing a Jackson Five number.
While Australia debated whether the piece was actually even racist, it was a further blow to Australia’s international reputation on race relations.