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Collingwood President Eddie McGuire Resigns After Racism Row

McGuire failed to apologise or acknowledge the role of former player Héritier Lumumba in prompting an investigation that found systemic racism at the Magpies.

Eddie McGuire has stood down as Collingwood Football Club president, effective immediately.

McGuire told a press conference Tuesday: “I try my best and I don’t always get it right, but I don’t stop trying. Today, effective immediately, I step down from the presidency of the Collingwood Football Club.”

He had been due to step down at the end of 2021 after 22 years as president.

His resignation comes after a number of prominent Australians signed an open letter to the Collingwood Football Club demanding McGuire step down following the release of the leaked ‘CFC Do Better’ Report.

Eddie McGuire resigns effective immediately as Collingwood Football Club President on February 09, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.
Eddie McGuire resigns effective immediately as Collingwood Football Club President on February 09, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.

The report found evidence of “systemic racism” within the Magpies. Last week McGuire was forced to backtrack on his disastrous comments describing the report’s release as “an historic and proud day” for the club.

A tearful McGuire insisted during Tuesday’s press conference that he had become a “lightning rod” for criticism after making the “proud” comments.

“People have latched on to my opening line last week and as a result I have become a lightning rod for vitriol but have placed the club in a position where it is hard to move forward with our plans of clear air,” he said.

McGuire listed charity and community work the club had done as a reason Collingwood wasn’t racist, however he failed to apologise or acknowledge the role of former player Héritier Lumumba in prompting the ‘CFC Do Better’ report.

“This is why I say we are not a racist club, far from it,” he said.

“I remind people that our recent review, inspired by Black Lives Matter, that part of a six-year journey of our reconciliation action plan was to look to what we need to do in the next 10 years, not the last.”

Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman, slammed that statement.

“It is a bit like, ‘I am not racist because I have got an Aboriginal friend.’ I don’t think that those comments help,” she told ABC News.

“I think that clearly Eddie himself has an issue with racism and he has some incredibly good, smart people at that organisation that have had genuine partnerships with Aboriginal communities and organisations and so they should.

“That should be the norm. It was a bit of an eye roll moment for me.”

Did McGuire mention Héritier Lumumba during the press conference?

Lumumba’s account of a “culture of racist jokes” at the club where he played 199 games from 2005-14 prompted the ‘CFC Do Better’ report although McGuire did not mention the former Magpie in Tuesday’s press conference.

McGuire told reporters the “Black Lives Matter” movement triggered the review.

In 2017, Lumumba went public with allegations teammates had nicknamed him “chimp” and said the club failed to support him and punished him for daring to speak out about McGuire’s 2013 “King Kong” slur at Adam Goodes.

Collingwood publicly denied Lumumba’s claims along with coach Nathan Buckley.

Lumumba last week labelled the club’s response to the ‘Do Better’ report as “cowardice” and “delusional”.

“What I saw was a clear case of cowardice,” Lumumba told ABC radio.

“It was a clear case of a football club that is delusional.

“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.”

What did the open letter say?

Today’s letter, signed by First Nations and culturally diverse politicians and academic, called for the Magpies to appoint a team with “recognised credentials in truth-telling and reconciliation processes” to oversee the 18 recommendations of the report. It also called on Collingwood’s sponsors, including Nike, CGU Insurance and Emirates Airlines to make clear and unequivocal statements rejecting racism.

“The Collingwood Football Club’s response to the leaked ‘CFC Do Better’ report is unacceptable and insulting to those who have suffered vilification by the club’s President, its supporters, and within the club itself,” the letter said.

“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 letter said.

Signatories include Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe (Gunnai-Gunditjmara), historian Dr Gary Foley (Gumbaynggirr), writer and social commentator Celeste Liddle (Arrernte), author Tony Birch (Fitzroy Blak) and producer Jason Tamiru (Yorta Yorta), the grandson of Aboriginal football legend, civil rights leader and Governor of South Australia, Sir Doug Nicholls.

“For too long this club, led by Eddie McGuire, has been at the forefront of systemic, discriminatory racism,” Greens spokesperson for Sport and First Nations people Senator Lidia Thorpe said in a statement.

“How are we allowing people like Eddie McGuire, in such high positions of power, to continue with his leadership role? Eddie’s got to go.”

“Collingwood should not be avoiding the truth - they need to acknowledge their failures, respond to the ‘Do Better’ report’s recommendations, and act to stamp out systemic racism.”

Federal Labour MPs Peter Khalil and Dr Ann Aly have also signed the letter, along with the chair of Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) and former Socceroo Francis Awaritefe.

Musician Neil Morris (Yorta Yorta), writer Benjamin Law, and Yumi Stynes are also signatories.

The letter adds: “We stand with Nicky Winmar, Michael Long, Adam Goodes, Joel Wilkinson, and all those who have been subject to vilification by the club, its fans, and within the club itself. We support their right to acknowledgement, apology and compensation as recommended by the ‘CFC Do Better’ report.”

This is a developing story.

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