Madonna accused of ableism after 'politically incorrect' flub about fan in wheelchair

Madonna on a stage holding a microphone behind two men in red shorts and boxing gear dancing
Madonna kicked off her career-spanning Celebration Tour last year in London. (Kevin Mazur / WireImage for Live Nation)

Madonna acknowledged at a recent concert that it was "politically incorrect" to urge a fan using a wheelchair to stand up. Still, the pop icon faces accusations of ableist behavior on social media.

The "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin" diva, 65, drew backlash over the weekend after a video reportedly from a Celebration Tour concert at the Kia Forum this month went viral. In the clip, Madge hypes up her audience and encourages them to "take this ride with me."

"What are you doing sitting down over there?," the singer asks, singling out a concertgoer. "What are you doing sitting down?"

She walks to the end of the stage to get a closer look at the fan, who she sees is in a wheelchair. "Oh OK, politically incorrect, sorry about that," she tells the concertgoer.

Read more: Madonna's Celebration tour is a messy victory lap that needs more razzle-dazzle

"I'm glad you're here," the Grammy-winner adds, before seemingly poking fun at her flub. "Oh, my God."

While Madonna moved forward from her faux pas, multiple social media users were hung up on the moment. Public speaker and author Ola Ojewumi, who is a wheelchair user, described Madonna on X (formerly Twitter) as "ableist trash."

Ojewumi compared the viral moment with the treatment she received from rapper Lupe Fiasco at a previous concert. The writer said the "Show Goes On" artist "saw me sitting in a standing-room-only concert and looked confused." Ojewumi added that Lupe Fiasco made the concert extra special by taking photos with her backstage, dedicating a song to her and more.

Read more: Madonna and a dancer in stilettos fell at a Seattle show — she didn't get hung up on it

"That's the difference between an artist and what Madonna is — ableist trash," she wrote.

"Madonna was insane for telling a wheelchair user to stand up for her songs," wrote user @gagasyuyi.

Musician and disability advocate Lachi, who is blind, also blasted Madonna for her comments and challenged the singer to make it up to the fan.

"Madonna, you know how hard it is for us #disabled folk to be getting out to these shows, from ticketing to nosey stares?," she wrote. "Girl be more than glad! Get that wheelchair user a photo-opp or SOMETHING, cause that was a roughn'n."

Additional critics slammed the singer for asking the concertgoer why they were sitting. "Many people have medical conditions, many people get tired, many people are in wheelchairs," wrote X user @@INZ0MB1A.

Read more: He hits four L.A. raves a night in a wheelchair: 'We need more disabled people going out'

On the other hand, some online fans came to the Queen of Pop's defense. "She couldn't see that the person was in a wheelchair," wrote @MCiccone94, "leave her alone."

"Wheelchair or not everyone should be standing at a Madonna show," tweeted @iamthelastlaw.

Representatives for the singer and her tour did not immediately respond to The Times' request for comment.

Madonna kicked off her Celebration Tour in Europe in the fall of 2023, months after she suffered a bacterial infection and delayed her shows as a result. The singer started her Kia Forum shows last week with concerts on March 4, 5, 7 and 9. Her run at the Inglewood venue ends Monday evening.

Read more: Fans drag Madonna's late start for U.S. leg of tour, but she was still 'on fire'

Times critic Mikael Wood wrote that the singer's Celebration Tour "was curiously short on joy."

"A pop concert is a theater of personality and craft, not one of plot or character development," he added. "But a narrative this messy needed more razzle-dazzle."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.