What Do Collingwood And The AFL Do Now?
“This is a historic and proud day for Collingwood Football Club.”
That was the opening remark from Collingwood president Eddie McGuire’s latest and most shocking press conference.
He was responding to some really damning evidence that leaked about Collingwood’s systemic racism, and his comments have copped a lot heat.
So, what do we need to know about the leaked Collingwood report? And how should the AFL take action here?
What The ‘Do Better’ Report Found
The ‘Do Better’ report was commissioned by Collingwood themselves, and it essentially found that the club has a deep-rooted problem with racism that it’s never taken responsibility for.
It suggested that there’s a massive gap between what the club stands for and what it actually does when serious complaints of racism are made.
Former Collingwood player Heritier Lumumba is currently suing the club for allegedly subjecting him to 10 years of racial discrimination on and off the field, and he thinks that his case is actually what triggered the independent report.
Eddie McGuire’s Public Track Record
Antoun Issa (The Guardian): “But then Eddie being who he is – a huge media personality and huge profile, at least in Victoria – he has the kind of gravitas to be able to really influence how people think.
What I was hoping for was Eddie being a bit more of a leader and recognising his role, as opposed to taking it as a personal slander.”
Another Apology From AFL Boss Eddie McGuire (What A Surprise)
But with the Black Lives Matter movement demanding a global reckoning with racism, the public response this time around is that an apology really isn’t going to cut it.
AI: “You’re seeing posts (from Collingwood members) calling for petitioners to push Eddie out. You’re seeing people equating Eddie to Donald Trump and his views and his kind of attitude, and also his obsession with power. There’s a lot of anger there. But then you also get that 30% cohort that’s trying to excuse Eddie McGuire; trying to defend the racism and being apologetic for it, and trying to find holes in the report.
That thirty percent of people is concerning, not only because these are people that are literally defending racism, but also because when the president of an AFL club describes findings of a racist culture as a ‘proud day’ that has serious ramifications.”
But instead, people online have likened the situation at Collingwood to Australia’s problem with racism more broadly.
Where Can The AFL Go From Here?
Eddie is stepping down at the end of the year, but Antoun thinks that should happen sooner.
AI: “Powerful white men cannot just get away with presiding over a club that’s … saying racist comments publicly, or misogynistic comments publicly. We’ve got to get to a point where that’s just no longer acceptable.
And if the AFL really wants to be a mature, inclusive, diverse organisation, it needs to start setting those limits on its clubs and everyone that works with AFL [or is] part of the AFL. You cannot say racist comments and still expect to be president of the football club the next day.”
The Collingwood report and Eddie McGuire’s response to it, have provided another significant proof point of racism both in Australia and in sport.
The AFL can only use this as an opportunity to move forward, if it takes full and active responsibility for the issues that this report has made incredibly clear.