Under-siege Collingwood president Eddie McGuire admits he got it wrong when he labelled a report that uncovered systemic racism at the AFL club as 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.
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 after heavy criticism of his statement, McGuire back-tracked on those comments at Collingwood’s annual general meeting on Tuesday night.
“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 been a distraction from the importance of the findings on racism and the work that lies ahead.”
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.
But the 34-year-old was scathing in McGuire’s attempts to “spin” his way out of trouble.
“What I saw was a clear case of cowardice,” Lumumba told ABC Radio National on Tuesday.
“It was a clear case of a football club that is delusional.
“If that’s the way Collingwood wants to address (the release of) an independent report, that it did not want out there.
“I have been asking Collingwood football club since late last year when I knew they had the report, I have been asking them for it but it was not given to me.
“It was actually sad I had to receive that from media sources.”
Lumumba does not hold McGuire “solely responsible” for Collingwood’s culture but believes the long-serving president needs to take more accountability as leader of the club’s board.
“A lot of the responsibility falls on him. The performance he gave (on Monday) was cowardice,” Lumumba said.
“They keep pointing to courage and they’re the ones who are leading the charge (against racism); no they are absolutely not the ones leading the charge.
“I thought there was absolutely no way that at a review or any sort of investigation would be conducted in good faith.”
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”.