Did Qantas Support A “Racist” Twitter Contest, Or Are Its Followers Overreacting?

It’s often hard to predict how your audience will react to something you tweet. You think you’re sharing something insightful, but they laugh at it and call it silly. Or, in the case of Qantas, an Australian airline, you think you’re supporting a fun contest but your followers call “racism”.

Qantas has apologized and removed a picture from its Twitter feed that offended a number of its followers over the weekend, many of which thought the photo was racist in nature.

The photo was of two rugby fans at the Bledisloe Cup, posing with Fijian-born Radike Samo. They were wearing afro-style wigs and had painted their faces black.

The back story behind a national airline with over 30,000 followers tweeting the photo is an interesting one. Qantas had run a Twitter campaign asking fans to show their support for the Wallabies rugby team, and had awarded one of the men in the photo a free ticket to the game if he would dress as Wallabies player Samo.

As B&T reports, the photo was uploaded to the Qantas Twitter feed along with the caption “Good work.” And this immediately sparked cries of racism.

Within minutes, outrage on Twitter had forced Qantas to remove the picture, and issue a several-tweets-long apology, which included:

“We apologise the photo of 2 Radike fans offended people. We’ve spoken with Radike & whilst he has no issue with it we have removed the image”

It’s true that Samos himself defended Qantas and the men in the picture, saying:

“These guys were actually paying me a tribute. It was a bit of fun and I think they regarded me as their favourite Wallaby. I don’t have an issue with it at all, I was glad to be in a photo with them.”

But there are some who think that removing the picture wasn’t enough:

This was clearly an unexpected reaction. Qantas didn’t foresee that its community would consider this a racist picture, but rather would view it as part of the contest wrap-up.

Do you think this was an overreaction on the part of Qantas’ community? Or did someone on their PR team make a big mistake by tweeting the photo? Let us know in the comments.