Collingwood players have penned an open letter apologising to anyone who suffered racism through their association with the football club.
It comes days after Collingwood president Eddie McGuire was criticised for his response to a damning report that uncovered evidence of “systemic racism” at the club – and for failing to apologise.
The open letter, written by the 150 footballers and netballers of Collingwood, starts with one word: “Sorry”.
“As athletes, we are sorry to anyone who, through their association with our club, has been marginalised, hurt or discriminated against due to their race,” it reads.
“Through our silence we feel responsible for these injustices.
“We acknowledge it is not enough to simply show support for the principles of anti-racism and inclusion. We will confront the history of our club in order to learn, heal and determine how best to walk forward together.”
The players said they have had an opportunity to “digest” the ‘Do Better’ report – an independent investigation commissioned by the club’s board last year that found Collingwood guilty of a toxic culture of racism.
In the letter, they apologised to members, fans and the community “who feel guilt and shame as a result of the systemic racism that has occurred within our organisation”.
“To all the young people who dream about one day pulling on the black and white stripes, we pledge as athletes to continue to help create a club that allows ALL of us to thrive, regardless of race,” it reads.
The letter was also endorsed by the club’s 120 staff members.
McGuire was widely criticised after declaring on Monday the release of the report was a “historic and proud day” for the club.
He later backtracked and said those comments were wrong.
“I got it wrong. I said it was a proud day and I shouldn’t have,” McGuire told club members at its annual general meeting on Tuesday night.
McGuire has faced calls from commentators and even federal politicians to resign over the report and his handling of racism at the club.
The report was sparked following allegations of racism from former Collingwood AFL player Heritier Lumumba.
The report did not specifically investigate Mr Lumumba’s claims, but did find systemic racism existed within the organisation.
McGuire, who was appointed Collingwood president in 1998, will relinquish the role at the end of the year.
But Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt on Thursday told ABC radio he wants McGuire to stay on as president so he can learn from systemic racism at the club.