President of the Collingwood Football Club (CFC) Eddie McGuire resigned on Tuesday a little over a week after the release of the “CFC Do Better Report” aimed at confronting racism within the organisation.
The club had commissioned a review of systemic racism within the club in June 2020, after former Collingwood player Héritier Lumumba alleged that there was a culture of systemic racism during the 10 years he played for the club.
Former teammates Chris Dawes, and Brent Macaffer supported Lumumba’s allegations confirming that Lumumba was nicknamed “chimp” during his time at the club, though coach Nathan Buckley denies knowledge of Lumumba’s nickname.”
The independent review was conducted by Prof. Larissa Behrendt the Director of the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education, and Research at the University of Sydney Technology, and concluded that systemic racism existed within the club. In response, the CFC has vowed to commit to the recommendations put forward within the report in order to combat racism.
Among the list of 18 recommendations in the report, the club will aim to integrate “concepts of anti-racism, and inclusion” into the values of the club, and have a more proactive response to racism.
“The CFC DO BETTER REPORT is an acknowledgement that our club, our game, and our country have got things wrong. For our part, we have always sought to do our best but looking back we now know that wasn’t always good enough. For that, we are sorry, and pledge to do better,” McGuire said.
At the press conference for the release of the report, McGuire called it a “proud, and historic day for the Collingwood football club,” seeing it as a step towards racism equality within the club. But his statement drew criticism and calls for his resignation, including from Victoria’s first Indigenous member of parliament Lidia Thorpe.
“A ‘proud day’ – what is there to be proud of? Proud to be called out for systemic racism? Do you think those that experienced this racism feel ‘proud’ today?” Thorpe wrote in a post on Twitter on Monday.
— Lidia Thorpe (@lidia__thorpe) February 1, 2021
Although not explicitly stated, critics have suggested that McGuire’s statement is the cause of his sudden resignation.
“I try my best. I don’t always get it right. But I don’t stop trying. But today I step down, effective immediately,” McGuire said on Tuesday.
The CFC released a statement congratulating McGuire on his achievements throughout his years 23 years as president of the club, but provided no reason for the immediate resignation.
McGuire had initially planned to resign at the end of the 2021 season after announcing his plans in December last year, and promised to spend his last year “setting up a new era of Collingwood.”
Media personality and former professional Geelong football player Sam Newman referred to the treatment of McGuire as an “absolute disgrace” while guesting on FIVEaa Radio’s Adelaide based Sports Show. Newman believes that McGuire was unfairly treated.
“He might have erred like everyone might have erred, but he’s tried his heart out to rectify what has gone on at that club,” Newman said.
Former senior AFL Indigenous advisor Jason Mifsud also contested McGuire’s media characterisation and came to his support.
“He has helped many Indigenous people. The experiences certainly do not correspond with the labels around the club and Eddie. That is not to say he and I have not had discussions around language and previous mistakes, but I am more about challenge the behaviour, and support the individual,” said Mifsud.