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Friday, April 16, 2021

Former Collingwood star Heritier Lumumba blasts Eddie McGuire’s response to racist findings

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The AFL star who blew the whistle on Collingwood for their ‘systemic’ racism has slammed the club’s response as ‘bizarre’ and ‘cowardly’ – and called for the AFL owners to step down.

Heritier Lumumba is suing the Magpies over claims he was subjected to racial abuse while playing with the team.

A scathing report was made public, finding the club’s attempts to deal with allegations of racism were either ‘ineffective’ or ‘exacerbated’ the situation.

Delivered to club executives on December 17 but kept secret until Monday, the report’s authors said Collingwood was now perceived by some as ‘synonymous with off-field and on-field racism in Australian sport’.  

Heritier Lumumba (left) is suing the Magpies over claims he was subjected to racial abuse while playing with the team

Heritier Lumumba (left) is suing the Magpies over claims he was subjected to racial abuse while playing with the team

McGuire denied there was any 'systemic racism' at Collingwood, and said that on his watch they're 'built a fantastic club'

McGuire denied there was any ‘systemic racism’ at Collingwood, and said that on his watch they’re ‘built a fantastic club’

During a Collingwood press conference on Monday, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, 56, denied there was any ‘systemic racism’ at Collingwood, and said that on his watch they ‘built a fantastic club’. 

‘We’re not a mean-spirited club, we’re not a racist club. I hope this provokes conversation tonight in every household, in all of your workplaces,’ he said.  

‘We have decided as a club that this fight against racism and discrimination is where we want to be. We make mistakes. We learn, we strive to get better.

‘We commissioned this report not to pay lip services to a worldwide tragedy, but to lay the foundations for our game, our people and our community.’ 

‘It was not systemic racism, as such, we just didn’t have the processes to deal with it that we do now. I don’t think there’s any shame or disappointment here… this is a day of pride,’ he said.  

Lumumba however has hit back at the laid-back response delivered by McGuire following the report’s findings. 

‘It was painful to watch the club dig itself deeper into delusion and dishonesty at today’s press conference,’ Lumumba tweeted on Monday night. 

‘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.’

Lumumba also thanked Collingwood Football Club members and supporters who reached out to him. 

Lumumba however has hit back at the laid back response taken by McGuire following the report's findings

Lumumba however has hit back at the laid back response taken by McGuire following the report’s findings

Lumumba (right) vowed to continue his fight after leaving the football club in 2014

Lumumba (right) vowed to continue his fight after leaving the football club in 2014

On Tuesday morning, Lumumba continued his attack on McGuire’s response on ABC’s RN, calling it ‘cowardice’. 

‘The report states that when the Collingwood Football Club is confronted with the truth or the facts that pertain to racism and systemic racism, it doubles down, it denies, it doesn’t accept responsibility,’ he said, Sydney Morning Herald reported.    

‘I think if individuals, as leaders, people who are faces of the club such as Eddie McGuire are unable to radically transform the way they are viewing or interacting with the issue of racism either public or privately then they should absolutely step down.’

Lumumba said that since he left the club in 2014 he has always looked for ways to ‘be open in the public’ about his experiences after exhausting other avenues. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has also come out in defence of McGuire following the report's release

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has also come out in defence of McGuire following the report’s release

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has also come out in defence of McGuire following the report’s release, although he acknowledged that more has to be done to stop the tides of racism.

Mr Andrews was asked whether McGuire should resign in light of the findings, to which he responded, ‘I don’t think running away from challenges is leadership, whether it’s in a footy club or any other role,’ The Australian reported.

‘I think yesterday was a sad day, but it was a very significant day. You’ve got to acknowledge these things before you can do something meaningful about it.’

The Premier said he won’t be offering ‘running commentary’ about McGuire calling it a ‘proud day for the club’. 

‘What I will say is this though, whether it’s cricket, we’ve seen some pretty nasty incidents this summer, or it’s Aussie rules footy, or any part of our Victorian community and indeed beyond just Victoria, we all have to acknowledge that this is a fact of life, and it’s shameful. We’ve got to do more, all of us.

‘I shouldn’t say it’s ”a fact of life”. It is a reality. It is real, and whether it’s people in the Grampians doing some just awful stuff a couple of weekends ago, or whether it’s the more casual embedded bigotry.

‘It’s harmful, it’s shameful, and we need to do everything we can to change that, and that starts with leadership.

‘And I think running away from challenges is not the way you deliver better outcomes, but again I would just say you’ve got to acknowledge these things first, before you can ever hope to put a plan in place.’ 

The 35-page report - conducted by two experts in Aboriginal affairs from Sydney's University of Technology - called for a separate investigation into Lumumba's claims

The 35-page report – conducted by two experts in Aboriginal affairs from Sydney’s University of Technology – called for a separate investigation into Lumumba’s claims

As well as heavily criticising Collingwood's response to allegations of racism, the report called for a separate investigation into former player Lumumba's claims (Lumumba is pictured playing for the Melbourne Demons in 2016)

 As well as heavily criticising Collingwood’s response to allegations of racism, the report called for a separate investigation into former player Lumumba’s claims (Lumumba is pictured playing for the Melbourne Demons in 2016)

The 35-page report – conducted by two experts in Aboriginal affairs from Sydney’s University of Technology – called for a separate investigation into Lumumba’s claims.

‘While claims of racism have been made across the AFL, there is something ¬≠distinct and egregious about Collingwood’s history,’ the report obtained by the Herald Sun said.

‘There is a gap between what Collingwood Football Club says it stands for and what it does.’

Entitled ‘Do Better – Independent review into Collingwood Football Club’s responses to incidents of racism and cultural safety in the workplace’, the report referred to nearly a dozen high-profile allegations of racism at the club.

Included among them was a mention of McGuire’s joke suggestion in 2013 that Sydney Swans Indigenous star Adam Goodes should be used to promote the King Kong musical.

Its authors Professor Larissa Behrendt and Professor Lindon Coombes also mentioned Lumumba’s claim he was nicknamed ‘chimp’ by other Magpies players.

Other incidents named in the report include the moment Nicky Winmar famously lifted his shirt and pointed to his skin after receiving racist slurs from Collingwood’s cheer squad at Victoria Park in 1993.  

However, the report also noted the AFL giant had taken ‘important and positive steps’ to address racism within its ranks.

‘This has included the appointment of a First Nations person to the board, the introduction of new policies that more directly target racism and the appointment of a new CEO who has a commitment to making changes,’ the report said.

‘It needs to be noted and underlined that, in undertaking this review, the club was unflinching in holding up a mirror to itself.’

Collingwood said in December it would review the report’s findings and publicly comment on them early in the New Year.

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Collingwood for further comment. 

Nicky Winmar lifts his shirt to a feral Collingwood crowd in 1993 after the Saints won at Victoria Park. The image has become iconic in the campaign against racism in sport

In 2013, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire jokingly suggested Sydney Swans Indigenous star Adam Goodes (pictured in 2015) should be used to promote the King Kong musical

Nicky Winmar lifts his shirt to a feral Collingwood crowd in 1993 after the Saints won at Victoria Park. The image has become iconic in the campaign against racism in sport 

Also in December, McGuire – a Collingwood icon who has spent 23 years at the helm of the club – announced he was stepping away from his position at the end of the 2021 season.

He told club members he was determined to fight against racism at the club’s playing and training facilities during his final season in charge.

McGuire made the shock announcement he would vacate his role at the club’s annual members online forum on December 14.

Only McGuire’s wife and sons knew of his decision beforehand. 

‘Back in 1998 it was my time to stand up for our beloved Collingwood, instead of calling on others to do something for our club, they turned my way and I’m proud that I answered,’ McGuire said.

‘I have given everything I have to this position and now it is time for the club going forward, I will stand down at the end of next year and spend the rest of my time as president setting up a new era of Collingwood.’

This post was first published on DailyMail.

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