Usually when a company is accused of racism or any kind of bigotry by a celebrity and their army of followers, they immediately bend over into submission, fire/punish the offending employee, put out some kind of apologetic PR statement to try and put the whole thing behind thing as quickly as possible.
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Well it looks like Qantas is taking a different approach after Will.i.Am accused one of their flight attendants of racism when she told him off for not following the announcement to put away laptops (he says he was wearing noise-cancelling headphones and didn’t hear it).
Will had Tweeted the following about the employee:
You can read a more in-depth description of the incident and more Tweets that followed here, but it basically ended up with Will.i.am being met by police upon landing where he doubled down on the racism allegations and Tweeted the employee’s name.
Surprisingly, Qantas have now said they are backing their employee (who has since endured non-stop abuse by the star’s followers on Twitter) and want Will.i.am to retract his statements or they will provide legal support for their worker in court.
A Qantas spokesman told news.com.au:
Absent a retraction, and if the crew member wanted to take the matter further, we’d certainly be willing to provide legal support for them to do this.
Qantas also sent a memo to staff, stating that it is asking will.i.am for a retraction of his claim.
The tweets claimed poor treatment from crew and discrimination on the basis of race.
We replied that there appeared to be a misunderstanding on-board that was exacerbated by the fact will.i.am was wearing noise cancelling headphones.
We rejected claims of racism and have since asked will.i.am for a retraction of that claim. We fully support our crew and the great work they do ensuring safety of all those on-board.
It’s impossible to know whether the flight attendant was really picking on Will.i.am without being there and if so, whether that was down to her being racist, but if it truly was a misunderstanding that had nothing to do with race, then good on Qantas for sticking to their guns and not cowing to the Twitter mob that the former Black Eyed Peas star weaponised against them.
I doubt Will.i.am will retract the statement because he’ll look pretty dumb if he does and he seems pretty positive that it was a racist incident given all the Tweeting he’s done about it since. So it will be interesting to see where this one ends up.
P.S. The last time Will.i.am was in court, he was suing Pharrell because he claimed to own the rights to the phrase ‘I am‘. What a bell-end.