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Heritier Lumumba Responds To Letter From Collingwood FC Players: ‘A Tool For Damage Control’

Lumumba said it's “strange” management still hasn't acknowledged harm caused by racism at the Magpies.
Collingwood President Eddie McGuire speaks to the media on Momday.
Darrian Traynor via Getty Images
Collingwood President Eddie McGuire speaks to the media on Momday.

Héritier Lumumba says the apology letter from 150 of Collingwood’s footballers and netballers is “sincere” but finds it “strange” that young players ― who are not responsible for running the club ― are publicly acknowledging harm when management is “yet to do so.”

Athletes at the club issued a statement Thursday after a leaked report found evidence of “systemic racism” within the Magpies and called for the problem to be addressed. The investigation was prompted by Lumumba, who said he endured a “culture of racist jokes” while playing 199 games for the club from 2005 to 2014.

The letter ― in which players said they were “sorry to anyone who, through their association with our club, has been marginalised, hurt or discriminated against due to their race” ― has been met with mixed reactions, with many Twitter users asking why the AFL club’s president, Eddie McGuire, “still hasn’t apologised properly”, leaving it to the players to demonstrate this “leadership”.

“Incredible that the players themselves have to make this statement after the shocking inaction from management over the last few days,” one person wrote on Twitter. “This is the very first step that should’ve happened as soon as the report was presented.”

Another person wrote, “Ridiculous when the current President of the Club still hasn’t apologised properly and is a serial offender. Completely inadequate. Tell Eddie to resign, then we’ll take Collingwood seriously.”

Now Lumumba himself has expressed concern over the letter.

“I don’t doubt the sincerity of players when they say they are ashamed of staying silent and have been shocked by the contents of the leaked #CFCDoBetter report,” he tweeted on Friday.

“It’s strange that young players ― who are not responsible for the administration and culture of the club ― have issued an unconditional statement acknowledging harm when the management and leadership of the club have yet to do so.”

Lumumba also pointed out that of the 150 players and 120 staff who endorsed the letter, there would include people of colour.

He said, “Why should they be apologising for racism?”

“Unfortunately, this feels like the club using the genuine sentiment of some players and staff as a tool for damage control,” he added.

“This explains the lukewarm public response to the letter.”

McGuire, who in 2013 called Adam Goodes “King Kong” on live radio, on Tuesday was forced to backtrack on his disastrous comments describing the report’s release as “an historic and proud day” for the Magpies. The review found that racism had resulted in “profound and enduring harm to First Nations and African players.”

Brazil-born Lumumba, who said he endured a “culture of racist jokes” while playing at Collingwood from 2005 to 2014, said the response showed the club did not accept the findings of the report.

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

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