After 22 years as president of the Collingwood Football Club, Eddie McGuire on Tuesday announced his retirement with a snap press conference, which one Indigenous lawmaker said had “eye roll” moments.
The resignation comes after a number of prominent First Nations and culturally diverse Australians signed an open letter to Collingwood demanding McGuire step down following the release of the leaked ‘CFC Do Better’ report, which found “systemic racism” within the Magpies organisation.
McGuire laid out what he saw as his biggest contributions in the 15-minute press conference, which has been labelled by some commentators as a Trump-esque speech that rambled off an exaggerated CV as “he gave himself a pat on the back on the way out.”
Here’s the speech broken down into five big moments, according to commentators.
Reeled off LinkedIn-style achievements as a reason the club isn’t racist
Precisely 29 seconds after McGuire started his step-down speech, he began listing his career highlights and memories as if he were accepting an award.
The former Magpies boss noted the charity and community work the club had done as a reason Collingwood wasn’t racist.
“This is why I say we are not a racist club, far from it,” he said.
“It is why I am proud of our club.”
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’s ‘Afternoon Briefing’.
“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.”
Cast himself as the victim
Choking back tears, McGuire insisted he had become a “lightning rod for vitriol” after making the “proud” comments.
Author Cole Brown told ‘The Drum’ that McGuire’s behaviour was “white victimhood in the face of being accountable” and was not acceptable.
“In the statement that I just heard, that’s the language of victimhood,” he said.
“There’s still not an acknowledgment of systemic issues, which was the language used in the report and outrightly rejected by McGuire, and that’s unacceptable and it’s right that he be paying the cost for that now.”
Didn’t thank or acknowledge Héritier Lumumba’s role
Héritier Lumumba’s account of a “culture of racist jokes” at the club where he played 199 games, from 2005 to 2014, is credited in the ‘Do Better’ report as the catalyst for the review, although McGuire did not mention the former Magpie during his speech.
McGuire told reporters the Black Lives Matter movement triggered the review and didn’t mention Lumumba.
ABC commentator and former Magpie Tony Armstrong told Patricia Karvelas on ‘Afternoon Briefing’ that McGuire missed the mark.
“I made a note when I was in the presser, Eddie said that the ‘Do Better’ report was actually inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said.
“Héritier Lumumba was absolutely the catalyst for that report because of his strength in the way that he continued to front up despite members of the media taking the Collingwood side, with the way they were trying to control the narrative.
“Lumumba stayed strong, and now we have seen the report [being leaked] off the back of it.”
Failure to apologise
Collingwood’s first press conference in response to the ‘Do Better Report’ was missing one thing - an apology - and McGuire’s resignation speech was no different.
A week ago he told Australia the release, or leaking, of the review that found racism had resulted in “profound and enduring harm to First Nations and African players”, was “an historic and proud day” for the club - a media moment that football commentators dubbed a “dumpster fire”.
Football and netball players at Collingwood issued an apology penned by 150 of its athletes, a move Lumumba said was “strange” since the young players ― who are not responsible for running the club ― are publicly acknowledging harm when management was “yet to do so.”
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.
McGuire’s resignation press conference did not apologise to Lumumba or to those marginalised by a pattern of racist incidents at the club.
Journalist Tracey Holmes said on ‘The Drum’: “What was missing form Eddie in all of this, is this is not about Eddie, this is not about his legacy, this is about all of the people that have been harmed.
Cried “white tears”
“I love Australian rules football,” McGuire said with a trembling voice.
“I love that it is the most egalitarian of games.
“I love my memories of walking into Victoria Park the first time. How for the first time in my life I felt part of a community.”
Senator Thorpe explained that the legitimate grievances of brown and Black folks are no match for McGuire pining over his nostalgic feelings about football.
“The pain that I saw in Eddie’s eyes and the tears that I saw from Eddie, we actually refer to them as ‘white tears’ because the pain that these players have endured and the effect that it has had on their lives and their careers has been insurmountable, and it is something that you can’t just move on with,” she told ABC Tuesday.
“It is something that affects us profoundly. I hope Eddie realises that and I hope he does do some soul searching to have an understanding of how racism affects people who have been perpetrated against all of their life.
“That is what we have. We have dealt with this in this country for too long”
Full speech here: