Under-siege Collingwood President Eddie McGuire admits he got it wrong when saying the release of a leaked report that uncovered evidence of “systemic racism” at the AFL club came on a proud day for the Magpies.
An independent investigation – commissioned by the club’s board last year after long-standing allegations from former star defender Heritier Lumumba – found Collingwood guilty of a toxic culture of racism.
Lumumba, who played in the Magpies’ last premiership in 2010, said he feels vindicated by the findings of the report after first raising the alarm on concerns about racism at Collingwood in 2013.
The 34-year-old on Tuesday slammed the club and McGuire for how they conducted themselves throughout the investigation and during a widely criticised media conference.
McGuire, who will walk away as the club’s leader at year’s end, opened Monday’s conference with a statement describing the release of the report as a “day of pride” and claimed the club was not racist.
But at Collingwood’s annual general meeting on Tuesday night, he backtracked on those comments.
“I got it wrong. I said it was a proud day and I shouldn’t have,” McGuire told the club’s members.
“I’m sorry that my error has a distraction from the importance of the findings on racism and the work that lies ahead.”
Earlier, Lumumba told The Feed watching the response from the club and McGuire was “extremely painful” and did not fit with what he believed to be a “damning report”.
“It pointed out and illustrated that the responsibility of those failings falls on the board. And obviously, the chairman of the board, being Eddie McGuire,” he said.
But he told NITV News he believes the issues at Collingwood FC are representative of a “microcosm” of what happens in the AFL code and in wider Australian society.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declined to call for McGuire’s resignation, telling reporters on Tuesday: “I don’t think running away from challenges is leadership, whether it’s in a footy club or any other role.
“I would have thought if you commission a report, you front it and you’re committed to doing what you can to fix it.
“That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Not the issue, but the response.
“It was a sad day, but a significant day.”
Lumumba chose not to participate in the club-commissioned review but the ‘Do Better’ report’s authors said there needed to be a serious investigation into his claims.
The 223-game AFL player said he was tired of explaining his experiences to Collingwood people and being met with “defensiveness”.
He told NITV News he requested to see the report when it was released in December, but that the club refused to share it with him. Another request to view the report was made to the club in early January.
Instead, Lumumba found out the contents of the report this week, through the media.