Sporting greats and MPs join call for Collingwood president Eddie McGuire to resign

Open letter suggests McGuire is ‘incapable’ of stamping out systemic racism at the AFL club

Federal politicians, writers, academics and former sporting greats, including AFL star Nathan Lovett-Murray and Socceroo Francis Awaritefe, have called on the Collingwood president, Eddie McGuire, to resign immediately, stating in an open letter their belief that he is “incapable” of stamping out systemic racism at the club.

The letter is the latest salvo in growing calls for the club to take responsibility to address racism following the release of a damning report which found systemic racism was endemic at the club.

The report, led by UTS distinguished professor Larissa Behrendt, found Collingwood had often acted defensively and “doubled down” when racist incidents were aired in the media.

Responding to the report at a press conference last week, McGuire claimed it was a “proud” and “historic” day for the club. He insisted Collingwood was not a “racist” or “mean spirited” club. He later apologised for those initial comments but calls for McGuire’s resignation have grown.

Last week, Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton also called on McGuire to resign.

The open letter – signed by Greens senator Lidia Thorpe, federal Labor MPs Peter Khalil and Anne Aly, as well as writers Maxine Beneba Clarke, Tony Birch, Omar Sakr and prominent Aboriginal historian Dr Gary Foley, among others – adds further pressure on the club.

“We believe there are administrators, staff, fans and members of the Collingwood Football Club who truly wish to see it transcend its history. This can only happen with a radical shift in leadership,” the letter states.

“We believe Eddie McGuire has proven himself incapable of leading the Collingwood Football Club through any meaningful transformation. We call on him to step down immediately.”

The Do Better report was sparked by the testimony of former Collingwood player Héritier Lumumba, who has complained he was subject to racist nicknames and was ostracised by the club when he spoke out.

Lumumba has said the report vindicated his concerns but the club’s response to it was “shameful”.

The letter calls out Collingwood’s response, stating that “racism is not a series of gaffes or mishaps that can simply be brushed aside”.

“The Collingwood Football Club’s response to the leaked Do Better report is unacceptable and insulting to those who have suffered vilification by the club,” it states.

“A finding of systemic racism is not an excuse for powerful individuals to avoid accountability by blaming a lack of policies and procedures. It is an indictment of a fundamentally dysfunctional culture that develops when powerful individuals fail to act responsibly.”

The letter also expresses support for Lumumba and other black and Indigenous AFL players who have spoken out against racism. It calls on the club to implement the 18 recommendations in the report.

It says Collingwood’s major sponsors – Nike, CGU Insurance, Emirates, La Trobe Financial and Coles – should also “make clear and unequivocal statements rejecting racism” in the wake of the report’s release.

A controversial 2017 interview conducted by news show The Project with Lumumba has also come under renewed scrutiny following the release of the report.

Lumumba appeared on the Channel 10 show to talk about his experience of racism at the club, but presenters Waleed Aly and Peter Helliar both cast doubt on the authenticity of the former player’s story, leading to calls for the pair to apologise.

Helliar issued an apology last week but Aly is yet to do so. Video of the interview has disappeared from Channel 10’s online platforms since the report came to light.


Amy McQuire

The GuardianTramp

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