'Truly sorry': Peter Helliar apologises after 2017 video resurfaces

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Peter Hellier, pictured here on The Project in 2017.
Peter Hellier has apologised for his 2017 comments about Heritier Lumumba. Image: Channel 10

Peter Helliar has issued an apology to Heritier Lumumba after his comments about the former Collingwood player from 2017 resurfaced on social media.

Lumumba was left to feel somewhat vindicated on Monday when a damning independent report found Collingwood guilty of “systemic racism”.

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The report found racism at Collingwood had resulted in “profound and enduring harm” to First Nations and African players and the club's response had been “at best ineffective or at worst exacerbated the impact of the racist incidents”.

The review was commissioned last year after shocking claims made by Lumumba about Collingwood, including that he was called “chimp” while at the club.

During an interview with Waleed Aly on The Project in 2017, Lumumba discussed his experiences at Collingwood.

But after watching the interview, panellist Helliar questioned why Lumumba hadn’t given more detail to back up his allegations.

“Heritier has the opportunity to become a really strong, significant voice in the battle against racism with the AFL and Australian sport,” Helliar said at the time.

“My only thing - it would be really helpful if we heard more detail, specifically with the nickname.

“We can’t find anyone who would speak to us who knew of that nickname over a playing career of 10 years.

“Even if you have to name names, take us into your experience. Paint the picture so we understand it more.

“Because if you don’t do that, then it just sounds like you’re smearing an entire club.”

Given the findings of the independent review published on Tuesday, Hellier’s comments have not aged well.

After being criticised when the clip went viral again on social media on Tuesday, the comedian and Collingwood fan issued an apology.

“I urge all fans & members to demand better from @CollingwoodFC,” Helliar tweeted.

“This report is heartbreaking. To @iamlumumba I am truly, unequivocally sorry. I should have believed you. I will do better.”

Lumumba has since revealed The Project invited him back on the show to discuss the review, but he declined.

Eddie McGuire apologises for ‘disturbing’ response

On Wednesday Lumumba criticised Collingwood and president Eddie McGuire for their response to the damning report.

After details of the report emerged on Monday morning, McGuire, chief executive Mark Anderson and integrity committee members Peter Murphy and Jodie Sizer fronted the media that afternoon.

But in a lengthy press conference, McGuire described the occasion as a “day of pride” and insisted there was no “shame or disappointment” - despite the report's damning findings.

On Monday night, Lumumba said Collingwood’s press conference was a “bizarre response to their own report finding them guilty of systemic racism” and was particularly critical of McGuire's attitude towards its findings.

Heritier Lumumba, pictured here in action for Collingwood in 2014.
Heritier Lumumba in action for Collingwood in 2014. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

“It was painful to watch the club dig itself deeper into delusion and dishonesty at today's press conference,” Lumumba said on Twitter.

“Eddie McGuire's inability to let go of the illusion he's constructed of himself does not serve the Club, the code, or the community.

“It's a pity his final year looks like it will be marked by yet another self-inflicted racism scandal.

“The report clearly states that during Eddie's tenure as CFC president, the club's racism resulted in ‘profound and enduring harm’ to many individuals, families, & communities.

“It was disturbing to see how easily Eddie and the CFC board members reduced the severity of this 'profound and enduring harm' to mere 'mishaps' - as if they were talking about spilling tea on a couch rather than being found guilty of years of systemic racism.”

McGuire has since backflipped on his stance, admitting he “got it wrong”.

“I'm sorry that my error was a distraction from the importance of the findings on racism and the work that lies ahead,” he said.

with AAP

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