The fallout over Collingwood president Eddie McGuire's response to findings of "systemic racism" at the club continues, with two AFL greats saying one "really significant" move highlighted his failings.
An independent investigation - commissioned by the club's board last year after long-standing allegations from former star defender Heritier Lumumba - found Collingwood guilty of a toxic culture of racism.
‘TRULY SORRY’: Peter Helliar apologises after 2017 video resurfaces
McGuire fronted the media this week to speak about the findings, copping widespread backlash after describing it as a "proud day" for the club.
Collingwood President Eddie Mcguire has apologised for describing the release of a report into racism at the Pies as a "Proud day for the club".
He's now promised to tackle racism at the club. Is he the man for the job ahead? #9News pic.twitter.com/QiDDY8cpdy
— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) February 2, 2021
The Magpies president later backtracked on those comments, admitting he "was wrong" at a Collingwood annual general meeting on Tuesday night.
"I'm sorry that my error was a distraction from the importance of the findings on racism and the work that lies ahead," McGuire said.
On Thursday, the club posted a powerful message on behalf of "150 footballers and netballers" at Collingwood, taking responsibility for the culture of racism that had been allowed to fester at the club and vowing to do better.
The letter began with the word "sorry", a term McGuire was slammed for failing to utter once during his lengthy press conference earlier in the week.
A statement from our athletes.
The following letter has been written by the 150 footballers and netballers of Collingwood. pic.twitter.com/m6U0H3MooV
— Collingwood FC (@CollingwoodFC) February 4, 2021
AFL legends Garry Lyon and Tim Watson said on Friday morning that the players had with one "significant" word, done what many thought McGuire should have in the first place.
“The footballers and the netballers just struck the absolute right tone when those around them from an administrative and Eddie McGuire and board level failed to do so,” Lyon told SEN Breakfast.
“I think the first word was really significant in that letter, it was ‘sorry’.
“We continued to ask the question earlier in the week and wondered why we hadn’t heard it. I think that was a significant piece of the puzzle we’re all putting together.
“They admitted to the club’s failings. They owned it. They didn’t try and deflect and say it was in the past, they owned it and took responsibility and didn’t try to spin it and I commend them.
“It makes the players look like the leaders in the organisation. That’s what this looks like.”
Watson says the letter from the players was a far cry from the "botched" press conference from Collingwood hierarchy that he labelled "embarrassing and humiliating for the club".
“There was no spin associated with that (letter) at all. None,” Watson said.
“They owned it. They could’ve said, ‘That hasn’t been part of what I’ve associated with the Collingwood Football Club’.
“The club botched the press conference the other day. They clearly did and the fallout from that was embarrassing and humiliating for the club and those that were associated with that.”
Players vow to make it a ‘better club’
Collingwood star Darcy Moore stressed that the statement from the players, however, had nothing to do with quelling the outrage around McGuire's comments.
“There is no other reason other than to say we acknowledge this history, we are going to take a good hard honest look at it and we are going to move forward,” Moore told SEN.
“We are going to use our voices to ensure that within the club, these actions are followed through with and that we are a part of this process.
“We’re not going to sit back and just let others take control, we are going to use our voice to make sure that this never happens again and we make it a better club in the future.”
Collingwood letter in full:
"Sorry. As athletes we are sorry to anyone who, through their association with our club, has been marginalised, hurt or discriminated against due to their race," the letter read.
"Through our silence we feel responsible for these injustices. We acknowledge it is not enough to simply show support for the principles of anti-racism and inclusion. We will confront the history of our club in order to learn, heal and determine how best to walk forward together.
"Over the last 72 hours we have had the opportunity to digest the DO BETTER report. We also apologise to those members, fans and community who feel guilt and shame as a result of the systemic racism that has occurred within our organisation.
"To all the young people who dream about one day pulling on the black and white stripes, we pledge as athletes to continue to help create a club that allows ALL of us to thrive, regardless of race.
"Faithfully. This letter is endorsed and supported fully by the 120 staff of Collingwood."
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