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Heat on Maguire, Collingwood after "bizarre" racism report response


The player whose racism claims sparked an investigation into Collingwood Football Club has accused it and president Eddie Maguire of “cowardice”, saying they dug themselves “deeper into delusion and dishonesty'” during a press conference held over the damning report.

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An independent investigation – commissioned by the club’s board last year in the wake of allegations from former player Heritier Lumumba – found Collingwood guilty of “systemic racism” and recommended significant changes to its culture.

Brazilian-born Lumumba played 199 games for Collingwood from 2005-14 including its 2010 Grand Final victory, and won All-Australian honours, but said he was called “chimp” while at the club.

The report was delivered to Collingwood on December 17, but the club made no comment about it until it was leaked and published by the media on Monday morning.

McGuire, chief executive Mark Anderson and integrity committee members Peter Murphy and Jodie Sizer fronted the media hours later.

But in a lengthy press conference, McGuire described the occasion as a “day of pride” and insisted there was no “shame or disappointment”.

The report found that 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”.

Some of the racist incidents highlighted in the report involved McGuire or occurred under his watch as Collingwood president.

The report found there had been a consistent pattern of Collingwood failing to adequately address racist incidents and an absence of internal avenues for reporting racism in the club until very recently.

It also found a “genuine acknowledgement of past failures and a strong desire to do better” within Collingwood, which has already taken some positive steps in recent years.

The new recommendations include changes to governance procedures to ensure accountability and consequences for acts of racism within the club, and that Collingwood should develop a strategy to address and reconcile past acts of racism.

The independent review conducted by Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt and Professor Lindon Coombes, from the University of Technology Sydney, included 30 interviews

Lumumba chose not to take part in the investigation. The report’s authors said it was not appropriate to review Lumumba’s allegations without his involvement but stressed the need for a serious investigation into the former Magpie’s claims, with his participation.

The club said it would implement all 18 report recommendation, but while McGuire acknowledged calls for him to step down immediately, he declared its findings had only strengthened his resolve to see out his planned final year at the helm.

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.

“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.”

Lumumba told ABC Radio National this morning that the report “does indicate all the things that I’ve been saying for almost eight years now”.

“Systemic racism pervades the Collingwood Football Club … it’s embedded within all of the systems that they have for the way that they operate from the administration level to the board level to the football department, and that encapsulates all people throughout the club,” he said.

“What I saw (at the press conference) was a clear case of cowardice. It was a clear case of a football club that is delusional.

“If that’s the way Collingwood wants to address (the release of) an independent report, that it did not want out there.

“I have been asking Collingwood football club since late last year when I knew they had the report.

“I have been asking them for it, but it was not given to me. It was actually sad I had to receive that from media sources.”

Lumumba says he does not hold McGuire “solely responsible” for the Collingwood’s culture but believes the long-serving president needs to take more accountability as leader of the club’s board.

“A lot of the responsibility falls on him. The performance he gave (on Monday) was cowardice,” he said.

“They keep pointing to courage and they’re the ones who are leading the charge (against racism); no, they are absolutely not the ones leading the charge.

“It was simply living up to not taking accountability, not accepting the fact that the football club has caused serious harm, as the report says.

“I really don’t know where there really is to go now for the Collingwood Football Club and for Eddie McGuire.”

In October 2020, Lumumba lodged a claim in the Supreme Court against Collingwood and the AFL over racist abuse he was allegedly subjected to during his playing days.

The AFL confirmed it had received a copy of the report on Monday and would review the information before considering what steps, if any, it should take.

“The mistakes of the past show that racism in any form or on any level is a serious issue and should not be interpreted in any other way,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said.

“This report is an important step in the change Collingwood is implementing and demonstrates the seriousness in which the club takes the issue.”

-with AAP

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