“Today is a historic and proud day for the Collingwood Football Club.”
Yes, the thousands of AFL followers who tuned into the 3:15pm press conference to hear Eddie McGuire’s apology heard that correctly.
Eddie McGuire, the club’s president publicly stated he is proud to be a part of a club that had only hours earlier, had it announced first via the Herald Sun that an internal report entitled “Do Better”, found the club’s history guilty of systemic racism.
McGuire continued to read from his prepared speech, one read in a monotone and with little empathy to those that it was directed to.
This is where Ed’s speech really got to me, and to probably many other listeners.
“We make mistakes, we learn, we strive to be better … it’s a day of pride,” he said.
“If we’re going to get anywhere, we need to get past this idea of tearing down people, tearing down institutions who are prepared to look at themselves.”
The statement seemingly had everything. Everything except Eddie McGuire’s apology.
And I hope it got to former player Heritier Lumumba, whose claims last year instigated the review conducted by Professor Larissa Behrendt.
As Lumumba takes legal action against both his former club and the AFL, he claims that the overall treatment caused “loss, damage, and injury including trauma, humiliation, distress, and loss of enjoyment.”
If the club hadn’t decided to conduct an internal review themselves, the AFL would have got to it in no time after such claims.
It’s baffling to understand how a significant figure of a club can turn such a low point of the club’s history into a day that the AFL community should look on and equally be proud of.
I sure wasn’t.
Let’s pretend to be McGuire for one moment and read the below statement at the press conference.
“We make mistakes, we learn, we strive to be better. Today, we apologise for the mistakes we’ve made, for the way we treated those who played for our club and we acknowledge that we have failed.
Today though, we sit before you to share where we went wrong and how as a club, we will ensure to not only demonstrate our clubs’ values, the AFL’s values, but also our countries values.”
I don’t know how long that took for me to whip together, but it sure wasn’t long at all.
Something said like this could have changed the tone so differently for McGuire’s speech.
Something said like this may have not had Eddie and Collingwood trending on Twitter for all of the wrong reasons.
McGuire continue to add that the club has “spent the last six years in a deep dive into how we can make ourselves better, provide leadership and conversation in the community as only Collingwood can.
“We have decided as a club that this fight against racism and discrimination is where we want to be.”
It only took six years, and for a former much-loved premiership player to take to the media and bravely have to share he was subjected to name-calling like “chimp” for you to realise that racism is not okay?
Not okay in a football club, a sporting code, and in a country that embraces multiculturalism?
On December 17, the 35-page report was handed to the Collingwood board that listed 18 recommendations that the club should act upon to improve the culture, and most importantly the safe environment for people of colour.
The report remained secret and the findings were not shared by the club, even while Lumumba called for the findings to be shared.
Back in December of last year, Lumumba tweeted “CFC’s damage control tactics are predictable. They likely include a strategically crafted apology that will attempt to spin its way out of real accountability.”
Coincidence much that only three days later the report was given to Collingwood, McGuire gave his 12-month notice as president?
It gets you thinking whether McGuire willingly retired or was subtly pushed out for the behaviours he allowed players to endure.
And whether it’s McGuire or president-to-be at the helm, it’s now the responsibility of all the club as the report states to pursue the cultural shift that must be accepted by the wider club.
Spotlight is all on you Pies, better get cracking at it.