LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - R&B singer Akon apologized on Wednesday for an underage liaison that drove phone company Verizon Communications Inc. to drop its sponsorship of a tour featuring the chart-topping artist.
Last month, during a concert in Trinidad, Akon engaged in a sexy on-stage dance with 15-year-old fan. After video of the romp circulated online, Verizon this week pulled out of pop singer Gwen Stefani’s “Sweet Escape” tour, on which Akon is the opening act.
“First, and most important to me, I want to sincerely apologize for the embarrassment and any pain I’ve caused to the young woman who joined me on-stage, her family and the Trinidad community for the events at my concert in Port of Spain on April 12th,” Akon said in a statement.
“It was never my intention to embarrass or take advantage of my fans in any way, especially those under the age of 18. That is why we tried to make sure that the club did not admit anyone under 18 in the audience. Somehow, that standard was not met.”
A spokesman for Live Nation, which is promoting the Stefani tour, said Akon would remain on the bill, and that no new sponsor had come aboard.
Verizon is still mentioned on Stefani's Web site (www.gwenstefani.com), and the tour has several stops at amphitheaters where Verizon has the naming rights. The trek, which began on April 21 in Phoenix, reaches Atlanta on Friday.
Akon, born Aliaune Thiam in Senegal, topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart twice in the past year, first in November with “I Wanna Love You” and then in March with “Don’t Matter.” His current album, “Konvicted,” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.