Collingwood President Eddie McGuire has opened the football club’s Annual General Meeting by apologising for a controversial statement he made during Monday’s press conference.
On Monday, Collingwood was forced to address an internal club investigation which concluded the club was guilty of fostering “systemic racism” that “has resulted in profound and enduring harm to First Nations and African players”.
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Despite the report’s findings, McGuire failed to say the word “sorry” once in a press conference that lasted more than one hour.
Bizarrely, McGuire began the press conference by declaring Monday was an “historic and proud day” for Collingwood.
It was just the tip of the iceberg from an extraordinary press conference described by football commentators as a “dumpster fire”.
Speaking at Collingwood’s AGM on Tuesday evening, McGuire conceded he should not have referred to Monday as a “proud day” for the club.
“I got it wrong,” McGuire said. “I said it was a proud day, and I shouldn’t have.
“I meant to sincerely acknowledge not only the enormous work the club had done, especially Jodie Sizer and Peter Murphy, in bringing this report together. But also the report of all our staff and their preparedness to take a deep and uncompromising look into our past as a club.
“I did not mean we were proud of past incidents of racism and the hurt that it caused, I am not. It’s been interpreted widely that way, and I regret that deeply.
“I’m sorry that my error has acted as a distraction from the importance of the findings on racism and the work that lies ahead. Under the pressure of the day, the use of the word proud was wrong.
“We may not be able to undo conduct of the past but we can certainly make the future balanced and inclusive for all people. We will set an example and eventually lead by example.”
Later in the AGM, Heath Shaw, Ben Reid, Nathan Brown were inducted as Life Members of Collingwood Football Club.
Former Collingwood defender Heritier Lumumba has claimed he experienced racism while representing the club, and was less than impressed with McGuire’s comments after the report’s findings were made public.
“What I saw yesterday was a clear case of cowardice, it was a clear case of a football club that was delusional,” Lumumba told ABC’s Radio National.
“What I saw yesterday was a club desperate in its damage control, and it was completely tone-deaf to where the world is at right now.”
Earlier on Tuesday, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told reporters he had spoken to McGuire about his questionable choice of words.
“I would have articulated things differently,” McLachlan said. “I would have used a different word. I thought that it was more sobering and confronting.
“And I think that Ed understands that position, and probably agrees with that.
“I know from the conversation that I had with Ed that he’s committed to taking the club forward and implementing the recommendations.
“That’s where we need to focus the discussion — on holding the board and others to account in delivering on the recommendations, rather than looking back to the execution.”
In December, McGuire announced he would step down as President of the Collingwood Magpies at the end of the 2021 season.
— with Tyson Otto