Nathan Buckley admits to 'dismissive' attitude in racism saga

Chris Young
·3-min read
Nathan Buckley has spoken out for the first time since former club president Eddie McGuire stepped down from the position in February. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Nathan Buckley has spoken out for the first time since former club president Eddie McGuire stepped down from the position in February. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has admitted to being 'dismissive' of former player Heritier Lumumba's complaints of racist treatment in his first interview since club president Eddie McGuire stood down.

McGuire stood down as Magpies president following the release of the 'Do Better' report, which found the club had a culture of systemic racism after its involvement in several historic incidences of racism in the AFL.

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The report was commissioned in part due to Lumumba's willingness to speak about his experiences with the club, wherein he was given the nickname chimp, with his story backed up by several former teammates.

In an interview with AFL Media, Buckley accepted he needed to have done more to address what Lumumba was bringing to his attention.

“In the end we’ve seen Heritier, Leon (Davis) and now Andrew (Krakouer) who have spoken from the heart about their experiences. I have a personal reflection. There was a press conference I gave in 2017 when Heritier’s documentary came out,” Buckley said.

“We don’t want people to ever feel like they’re diminished or vilified or seen as less than in our environment. 

"If that is their experience then it needs to be acknowledged and for that I think the club has said it apologises unreservedly and obviously I have been a part of this club for a long time so I don’t like the fact that people have felt that way and I’ve got to – we’ve all got to – listen and learn more to the experiences and acknowledge them rather than dismissing them.

“There was a presser when I look back in 2017 and it was dismissive and I needed to be better than that.”

The 2017 press conference Buckley is referring to came after the release of the documentary 'Fair Play', produced by SBS, which detailed Lumumba's claims.

In response to a question put to him about the 'chimp' nickname, Buckley replied that the saga had 'the capacity to get bigger than it needs to be'.

Buckley now acknowledges his response to the issue was lacking.

Nathan Buckley discusses Eddie McGuire departure

Buckley also discussed the tenure of controversial ex-club president Eddie McGuire, who stepped down in the wake of the report's release and subsequent press conference in which he described the report's release as a 'proud day' for Collingwood.

He said McGuire was both a perpetrator and victim of a 'character that has been protrayed' for and by the club.

“He’s either loved or hated. There’s not a lot in between with Ed, and I think that’s been a Collingwood way,” Buckley told AFL Media.

Magpies coach Nathan Buckley has admitted his response to Heritier Lumumba's racism complaints was 'dismissive'.. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)
Magpies coach Nathan Buckley has admitted his response to Heritier Lumumba's racism complaints was 'dismissive'.. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

“I think we have modified that in the last three or four years, we don’t chest-beat as much, we’re generally more open and transparent and willing to learn and listen and to grow, and to impact as positively as we possibly can.

“But there’s years of a character that has been portrayed for Collingwood, and by Collingwood, so I understand that’s a reality.

“Ed’s probably fed into that in some ways and been a victim of it in others but the reality is to take our steps forward as an organisation we need to be more circumspect. We need to understand that we don’t know it all, that we can be a leader in society let alone in the football industry.”

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