Eddie McGuire stepped down Tuesday as president of the Collingwood Football Club, effective immediately, following his disastrous comments last week as he described the release of a report on racism as “an historic and proud day” for the club.
“I try my best and I don’t always get it right, but I don’t stop trying,” the 56-year-old said before listing some of his and the club’s achievements and strides in charity, community and diversity work during his 22 years in the top job.
Some sympathised with the TV host, including Channel 7 presenter Basil Zempilas and Sky News reporter Laura Jayes, who said McGuire “should be afforded some kindness”.
However, McGuire is not a victim. Here’s why.
Eddie McGuire’s track record speaks for itself
He insisted during Tuesday’s press conference that he had become a “lightning rod” for criticism after making the “proud” comments, following the release of the leaked ‘CFC Do Better’ report, which found evidence of “systemic racism” within the Magpies.
“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.
However, this isn’t the first time McGuire has made headlines related to racism. People have reacted to his ‘proud’ comments only after years of witnessing his questionable behaviour.
In 2011 he referred to Sydney’s western suburbs as the “land of the falafel”. In 2013 he suggested Indigenous AFL player Adam Goodes be used to promote the ‘King Kong’ musical just days after a 13-year-old spectator called the sportsman an ‘ape’.
Saying he’s “become a lightning rod for vitriol” also falls flat compared to the systemic racism faced by First Nations and culturally diverse players and communities.
He didn’t mention Héritier Lumumba
Despite being called out and apologising in the past, McGuire’s remorse became harder to swallow when he failed to acknowledge the role of Héritier Lumumba in prompting the ‘CFC Do Better’ report.
Lumumba’s account of a “culture of racist jokes” at the club where he played 199 games, from 2005 to 2014, prompted the report.
However, on Tuesday McGuire said Collingwood was “not a racist club” and that the Black Lives Matter movement was what gave rise to the club’s investigation.
“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,” he said.
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 about Adam Goodes.
Collingwood had publicly denied Lumumba’s claims, along with coach Nathan Buckley.
Lumumba 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 last month. “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.”
Collingwood players apologised first
Collingwood Football Club issued an apology penned by 150 of its footballers and netballers last Thursday after the ‘CFC Do Better’ report was leaked.
In the letter, 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”.
However, many asked on social media why AFL club’s president still hadn’t “apologised properly”, leaving it to the players to demonstrate this “leadership”.
McGguire had been due to step down at the end of 2021.
His resignation on Tuesday came after a number of prominent Australians signed an open letter to the Collingwood Football Club demanding McGuire step down following the release of the racism report.
It 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.
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