‘Unacceptable and insulting’: Open letter calls on McGuire to quit

Community leaders and senior Indigenous figures are calling on Collingwood president Eddie McGuire to step down in the wake of a report into racism at the club.

An open letter addressed to the club said its response to the Do Better report – commissioned by Collingwood to investigate how it dealt with accusations of racism – was “unacceptable and insulting to those who have suffered vilification by the club’s president, its supporters, and within the club itself”.

Eddie McGuire fronts a press conference after the release of a report into racism at Collingwood.Credit:Joe Armao

“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,” says the letter, which was signed by about 100 people.

The 35-page independent report released last week was prompted by former player Heritier Lumumba’s claims of racism. It found that Collingwood had an unhealthy culture of protecting individuals ahead of the club. Lumumba refused to participate in the report, saying he was doubtful of Collingwood’s rigour in addressing the issues.

The letter says that nothing short of “a radical shift in leadership” will rid the club of the spectre of racist claims that have dogged it for several years and that McGuire, who has been the club’s president for 22 years, needs to step down.

“A finding of systemic racism is not an excuse for powerful individuals to avoid accountability by blaming a lack of policies and procedures,” it says.

“It is an indictment of a fundamentally dysfunctional culture that develops when powerful individuals fail to act responsibly.”

The letter also directly calls on Collingwood’s sponsors – which include Coles, Nike, Emirates Airlines, CGU Insurance and La Trobe Financial – to make statements rejecting racism in a “clear and unequivocal” way.

McGuire called the tabling of the historic report into racism at the club a “proud day” after its release but later told the club’s annual general meeting he had “got it wrong”.

“In my opening, I got it wrong,” McGuire said last week, “I said it was a proud day for Collingwood, and I shouldn’t have.”



The letter to Collingwood says racism is dangerous.

“To this day, it remains a matter of life and death. For immigrant communities of colour, it means harassment, marginalisation and trauma,” it says.

“For us, racism is not a series of gaffes or ‘mishaps’ that can simply be brushed aside.

“We stand with Heritier Lumumba and his call for the Collingwood Football Club to acknowledge its failure to prevent him from being subjected to racism by his teammates, as well as the decision by senior club figures, including Eddie McGuire and Nathan Buckley, to punish and discredit him when he spoke up against racism and came forward with his experiences.”

The letter’s signatories say they believe there are administrators, staff, fans and members of the Collingwood Football Club who “truly wish to see it transcend its history”.

“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 acknowledgment, apology and compensation as recommended by the Do Better report,” it says.

“We call on the Collingwood Football Club to appoint a person or people with significant and widely recognised credentials in truth-telling and reconciliation processes to oversee the implementation of all 18 recommendations.”

Comment has been sought from Collingwood Football Club and McGuire.

Nine, publisher of this masthead, last week backed McGuire. McGuire hosts the quiz show Millionaire Hot Seat for on Nine.

Full text of the open letter to the Collingwood Football Club

Racism is dangerous.

To First Peoples in this country, racism means a long, violent, and bitter history of invasion, occupation, displacement and genocide. To this day, it remains a matter of life and death. For immigrant communities of colour, it means harassment, marginalisation and trauma.

For us, racism is not a series of gaffes or ‘mishaps’ that can simply be brushed aside. 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.

A finding of systemic racism is not an excuse for powerful individuals to avoid accountability by blaming a lack of policies and procedures. It is an indictment of a fundamentally dysfunctional culture that develops when powerful individuals fail to act responsibly.

It is unacceptable that the Collingwood Football Club has sought to suppress and subsequently minimise the important work of Dr Larissa Behrendt, Dr Lindon Coombes and their team to document the historically entrenched failures of the club regarding racism.

As a major public institution, the club’s response to this report sets a dangerous example of how victims of racism should be treated in all facets of public life. Since both Collingwood and the AFL have demonstrated that they are not capable of responding to this report and its findings in an appropriate way, we as a community have no choice but to act.

We say enough. We believe that there are administrators, staff, fans and members of the Collingwood Football Club who truly wish to see it transcend its history.  This can only happen with a radical shift in leadership.

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.

We stand with Heritier Lumumba and his call for the Collingwood Football Club to acknowledge its failure to prevent him from being subjected to racism by his teammates, as well as the decision by senior club figures, including Eddie McGuire and Nathan Buckley, to punish and discredit him when he spoke up against racism and came forward with his experiences.

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.

We call on the Collingwood Football Club to appoint a person or people with significant and widely recognised credentials in truth-telling and reconciliation processes to oversee the implementation of all 18 recommendations of the ‘CFC Do Better’ report.

We call on Collingwood’s major sponsors, Nike, CGU Insurance, Emirates Airlines, LaTrobe Financial, and Coles to make clear and unequivocal statements rejecting racism.

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