In the wake of Tom Petty’s death Monday, Rolling Stone resurfaced an interview they did with the rocker about the Confederate flag in 2015. Petty, who was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, had used the flag onstage during 1985’s Southern Accents tour — but spoke regretfully about that decision decades later.
“I was pretty ignorant of what it actually meant,” Petty said, describing the flag as “the wallpaper of the South.” “The Confederate flag became part of the marketing for the tour. I wish I had given it more thought. It was a downright stupid thing to do.”
Petty explained that in the following years, he noticed fans bring Confederate flag merchandise to his shows — and told an audience one night to stop toting the paraphernalia. “There were some boos and some cheers,” he said, “but honestly, it’s a little amazing to me because I never saw one again after that speech in that one town.”
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But Petty said he was still left “feeling stupid” because if he’d “just been a little more observant about things going on around me, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Rolling Stone had sought Petty’s comments in 2015 as a national debate erupted surrounding South Carolina’s decision to lower the Confederate flag they’d flown above their statehouse. “That flag shouldn’t have any part in our government,” Petty said. “It shouldn’t represent us in any way.”
While he suggested that police brutality toward minorities is “a bigger issue than the flag,” he used the opportunity to emphatically decry such violence: “What’s going on in society is unforgivable. As a country, we should be more concerned with why the police are getting away with targeting black men and killing them for no reason.”
Read Rolling Stone‘s full story here.