Collingwood’s response to a report that found systemic racism within the club is a delusional act of cowardice that will exacerbate trauma, former player Heritier Lumumba says.
Lumumba has said he found it painful to watch the club’s “bizarre response” to the club’s Do Better report, which identified Collingwood’s failure over many years to deal with racism. That failure had resulted in profound and enduring harm to First Nations and African players and set dangerous norms for the public.
Collingwood President Eddie McQuire on Monday responded to the club-commissioned report by saying it was “an historic and proud day for the Collingwood Football Club” and that he would not step down ahead of his scheduled exit.
On Twitter on Monday night, Lumumba said McGuire and Collingwood board members had reduced the severity of the harm caused by racism at the club to ‘mishaps’ akin to spilling a cup of tea.
“I’m grateful to all the people who have reached out to me in support – including CFC members and supporters – as well as all those who have challenged the Collingwood Football Club’s bizarre response to their own report finding them guilty of systemic racism,” he wrote.
“It was painful to watch the club dig itself deeper into delusion and dishonesty at today’s press conference.
“Eddie McGuire’s inability to let go of the illusion he’s constructed of himself does not serve the Club, the code, or the community. It’s a pity his final year looks like it will be marked by yet another self-inflicted racism scandal.”
On Tuesday morning, Lumumba told ABC’s RN that Collingwood’s response to the report was “cowardice” and had only reinforced the culture the report had identified.
“The report states that when the Collingwood Football Club is confronted with the truth or the facts that pertain to racism and systemic racism, it doubles down, it denies, it doesn’t accept responsibility,” Lumumba told RN host Fran Kelly.
“It uses the institutional power to weave a narrative, it has a powerful public relations machine, and it knows that you can use that power to avoid taking accountability for its failings.”
“What I saw yesterday was a clear case of cowardice, a clear case of a football club that is delusional.”
Lumumba opted to not be interviewed for the independent review by professors Larissa Behrendt and Lindon Coombes. Their report does not address his allegations but says a separate inquiry is warranted.
“Unfortunately, in the face of this irrefutable evidence, now, the report, the Collingwood Football Club continues to do what it has always done and that’s been to deny to dismiss and to discredit, which is further exacerbating the trauma and the effect of the discrimination that originally happened,” Lumumba told RN.
“The report is accurate and I think Larissa Behrendt did a great job of outlining exactly what the systemic issues are.”
Lumumba has launched legal action against the club.
“When I left the football club at the end of 2014, I continued to look for avenues to raise my grievances,” he told RN.
“I explored the AFL route, that was ineffective. I explored raising concerns with the AFL Players Association, that was ineffective. And I continued to be open in the public about my experiences because I found no other way to address them.”
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