Eddie McGuire has come under fire after appearing to defend Sam Newman’s controversial blackface stunt over two decades later.
Newman appeared in blackface during a segment on the AFL Footy Show in 1999, pretending to be Indigenous player Nicky Winmar who failed to turn up for a guest appearance.
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McGuire, who hosted the Footy Show with Newman at the time, has since opened up about the controversy in The Australian Dream documentary - which aired on free-to-air television for the first time on Sunday night.
McGuire, who appeared uncomfortable with Newman’s actions at the time, said his co-host didn’t fully understand the impact of his stunt.
“He (Newman) didn’t understand the nuance. He was a product of those times,” McGuire says in the documentary, which chronicles former Sydney Swans champion Adam Goodes’ fight against racism.
“He was a ’60s, ’70s vaudevillian who was sending up Nicky Winmar because he didn’t turn up on the show that night.”
Viewers were left gobsmacked by McGuire’s comments, with many taking to social media to criticise the Collingwood president for seemingly defending Newman.
When I first watched #TheAustralianDream, I couldn’t find this old clip from The Footy Show anywhere online - odd considering its notoriety.— Jake Watt (@JakeChatty) February 23, 2020
So, for posterity, here’s Sam Newman being a racist flog in 1999 and Eddie McGuire defending Newman’s blackface as a “vaudeville” in 2018. pic.twitter.com/jK3ibcC3hV
Wow I actually had to look away, what a disgrace— Lunchlady Doris (@party_smasher) February 23, 2020
And we all know how popular vaudeville was in the 60-70s, right? Vaudeville dies at the turn of last century Eddie.— Adrian Tamburini (@AdrianTamburini) February 23, 2020
#TheAustralianDream— Maude Nificent (@maudenificent) February 23, 2020
Eddie McGuire - self-satisfied smug white Australian git.
Hosts a quiz show - doesn’t understand 1/2 the questions
blackface was wrong “then”
when we didn’t know better
and now we do know
it’s still wrong https://t.co/MzJsMm1SrX
And Eddie McGuire excuses Sam Newman's appalling behaviour. Sickening— choosing (@ch150ch) February 23, 2020
Shame, shame, shame, and we wonder why there is so much hatred and disrespect when such 'men' are on television.— Getdownsy (@getdownsy) February 23, 2020
More Adam and Stan, less Sam and Eddie!!!#TheAustralianDream
Eddie trying to explain vaudeville as being 60s/70s when it's from the late 1800s early 1900s while still, as always, excusing Newman's racist shit then pretending later like he had morals. Maguire has always been ready with an excuse. They are as bad as each other. #RacistPigs— PolarK (@Karina_Melbs) February 23, 2020
Goodes hated stepping onto football field
In the documentary, Goodes reveals how racist taunts and booing made him hate stepping on to the football field at the back end of his career.
“It (the football field) actually became a place I hated to walk out on to,” Goodes says in the documentary.
Despite the confronting subject matter, the film was ultimately a story of hope, the film's writer Stan Grant said at the premiere last year.
“It's a very confronting, it's a very challenging thing. Ultimately, for me, it can be a story of redemption and it can be a story of hope,” Grant said.
Aboriginal voices and experiences had to be listened to, he said.
"No one wants to be the angry Aborigine.... Australia needs to get past the idea that because you speak up and you speak against the idea of what other people may think Australia is, it doesn't mean that you don't also love your country and want the best for your country.”
Former Swans player and Goodes' best friend Michael O'Loughlin said parts of the film tipped him “over the edge”.
Listening to what Goodes' mum had gone through was particularly hard, he said.
“Then she had to watch her boy play a game of football, imagine walking into an arena with 50,000 people booing your son or daughter, it's a really hard thing to take,” he said.
Some commentators said opposition supporters booed Goodes because he was staging for free kicks in his latter years.
In 2013, Goodes provoked a national conversation about racism when he demanded a 13-year-old Collingwood supporter who had called him an "ape" be removed from the ground.
He described the girl as the face of racism in Australia.