'We feel responsible': Stunning development in Collingwood racism furore

·4-min read
Seen here, Collingwood players form a huddle during the 2020 AFL finals series.
Collingwood published a powerful letter about racism on behalf of its players on Thursday. Pic: Getty

Collingwood has released a powerful new message on behalf of 150 of its athletes - across Aussie rules and netball - in response to the report that uncovered "systemic racism" at the club.

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.

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The club's president Eddie McGuire fronted the media this week to speak about the findings, copping widespread backlash after describing it as a "proud day" for the club.

McGuire, who will walk away as the club's leader at year's end, opened Monday's conference with a statement describing the release of the report as a "day of pride" and claimed the club was not racist.

Pictured here, Heritier Lumumba during his Collingwood playing days.
Heritier Lumumba says he feels vindicated by findings of 'systemic racism' at Collingwood. Pic: Getty

But at Collingwood's annual general meeting on Tuesday night, he back-tracked on those comments.

"I got it wrong. I said it was a proud day and I shouldn't have," McGuire told the club's members.

"I'm sorry that my error has a distraction from the importance of the findings on racism and the work that lies ahead."

Many disgusted observers noted that McGuire never once used the term 'sorry' throughout the entirety of Monday's press conference, which last more than one hour.

On Thursday in an open letter on behalf of "150 footballers and netballers" at the club, Collingwood went some way to rectifying the situation.

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"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."

McGuire backed to face ‘challenges’ head on

Despite heavy criticism and people calling for him 'to go' after the press conference, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews this week backed McGuire to face the challenges.

“I don’t think running away from challenges is leadership, whether it’s in a footy club or any other thing,” the Premier told reporters.

“I think we’d be naive to think that it’s just one footy club, or it’s just one period of time, or it’s just one code. This is in our community. And we all of us have to do better. And, again, I’ll leave others to make their own judgments.

“But I would have thought, if you commission a report, you front it, and you’ve committed to doing what you can to fix it. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Not the issue. But the response?”

The premier later doubled down: “You asked me should he (McGuire) go, I’m saying no, that doesn’t make any sense to me, that’s running from a challenge, instead of dealing with it.”

Pictured here, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on the left and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire on the right.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is backing Eddie McGuire to face the challenges stemming from the racism report. Pic: Getty

Lumumba feels vindicated by the findings of the report after first raising the alarm on concerns at Collingwood in 2013.

However, the former Magpies star described the club's response to it on Monday as "cowardice" and "delusional".

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan described the findings of the report as "sobering and confronting" and admitted that McGuire got it wrong when addressing it.

“I would have articulated things differently and I think Ed understands that position and probably agrees with that,” McLachlan told reporters on Tuesday.

“I would have used a different word, I thought it was more sobering and confronting. It was a general conversation, maybe I did talk to that word, yes.

“We had a conversation that’s confidential but I wanted to understand what he meant.

“It was clear to me that he was looking forward and he was ‘proud’ that they were addressing their past and (accepting) a series of recommendations to take them forward that are endorsed by the board."

with AAP

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