Calls for the 56-year-old to stand down from his position at Collingwood reached frenzied levels on Monday after he delivered a “delusional” press conference when his club was forced to address an internal club investigation which concluded Collingwood is guilty of fostering “systemic racism” that “has resulted in profound and enduring harm to First Nations and African players”.
McGuire tried to spin a positive light on the bombshell verdict.
Despite the report’s findings, McGuire failed to say the word “sorry” once in a press conference that lasted more than one hour.
It was just the tip of the iceberg from his extraordinary press conference, which has been described by football commentators as a “dumpster fire”.
The level of outrage from the wider football community directed at the former host of The Footy Show is something rarely seen.
In a sport of 18 divided clubs, McGuire has united football in sheer condemnation of his actions.
McGuire began the press conference by declaring Monday was an “historic and proud day” for Collingwood.
His comments came after The Herald Sun exclusively obtained the 35-page report compiled by Professor Larissa Behrendt and Professor Lindon Coombes, which shined a damning spotlight on the culture at Collingwood.
The investigation, which comprised of interviews with 30 people, found Collingwood’s responses to instances of alleged racism were “at best ineffective, or at worst exacerbated the impact of the racist incidents”.
The report also said Collingwood addresses claims of racism through the prism of protecting the club’s brand and reputation, rather than addressing the issues directly and instigating meaningful change.
Within 30 seconds of sitting in front of the microphone, McGuire had stepped right back into that the shadows of denying any problem existed or continues to exist.
McGuire’s attempts to spin the narrative only inflamed the anger across the footy community.
Victoria’s first Indigenous senator Lidia Thorpe led the livid response to the Magpies figurehead.
This is incredible, truly. They have spun this to make themselves sound like world leaders, bench-mark setters. They're only talking today because the report was leaked, not released by them.
— Vince Rugari (@VinceRugari) February 1, 2021
“Eddie’s gotta go,” she posted on Twitter with an image of her calls from earlier on Monday which accused McGuire of overseeing a culture of “appalling structural racism”.
Sports reporter, formerly of The Australian, Ray Gatt summed up the mood on Twitter: “Judging by Twitter, there is absolutely no love for Eddie McGuire or Collingwood. Car wreck of a presser”.
Many commentators simply didn’t want McGuire to get away with his attempts to spin his way out of trouble.
ABC state political reporter Richard Willingham wrote on Twitter: “I’ve seen some spin in my time in politics but oh boy”.
ABC columnist Richard Hinds wrote McGuire was repeating the same mistakes from the past.
“A key part of the report into Collingwood’s racism was how the club had tried to spin its way out of such issues and cared more about media image than actions,” he posted on Twitter.
“So what do we hear today?
“Surely Eddie can’t serve another month after this dumpster fire of a response. Let alone twelve. Test of character for the other board members.”
Sports commentator Mike Wise continued the calls for Collingwood members and directors to force McGuire out before the end of his tenure at the end of the 2021 season.
“Well after that car crash of a press conference, I hope Collingwood members make their voices heard and unceremoniously boot that chump out of a job TODAY,” he wrote on Twitter.
“We’re not BHP”… “we’re a footy club”… says Eddie. Interesting. Normally he’s at pains to talk up the might of Collingwood. Now trying to make it sound like a local footy club. He’s right in a way – he and they are looking very, very small and amateurish right now.
— Russell Jackson (@rustyjacko) February 1, 2021
The internal reports’ findings came after public claims of racism by former Magpies defender Heritier Lumumba, which forced the club into action.
The report said a separate investigation into his circumstances was warranted and claimed “there is a gap between what Collingwood Football Club says it stands for and what it does”.
Asked about Lumumba’s refusal to sit down with his former club because he feels so hurt by his experiences and how his claims have been treated, McGuire said Collingwood will continue to reach out, adding “it breaks our heart” the backman doesn’t want to be part of the Magpie family.
“We’re not a mean-spirited club, we’re not a racist club,” McGuire said. “I hope this provokes conversation tonight in every household, in all of your workplaces.”
McGuire continued, speaking of his pride and rejecting any suggestion he would step down from his role.
He said the Magpies were taking on a leading role in the fight against racism, adding: “We have spent the last six years in a deep dive into how we can make ourselves better, provide leadership and conversation in the community as only Collingwood can.
“We have decided as a club that this fight against racism and discrimination is where we want to be.
So, Eddie McGuire isn't going anywhere and nor it appears are any other Collingwood board members or club officials.
McGuire: 'We make mistakes, we learn, we strive to do better'. @abcnews
— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) February 1, 2021
“We make mistakes. We learn, we strive to get better.
“We commissioned this report not to pay lip services to a worldwide tragedy, but to lay the foundations for our game, our people and our community.”
McGuire added the report “is not criticism, this is a review”, and was instigated because Collingwood wanted to “seize the moment” and “put ourselves in front of things”.
He also denied any racist issues raised in the report were because of “intention”.
“I am extremely proud. I’ve been here a long time and we’ve done a lot of great things, and this is great,” he said.
“There have been issues throughout history. Not only at football clubs, but everywhere. We can argue semantics, but the tone of where we want to get to is how we go forward … rather than arguing the toss on individual issues.”
McGuire denied there was any “systemic racism” at the club, even though the report explicitly stated that was the case. Grilled how he could deny there were issues of racism at Collingwood given that’s what the report found, a bullish McGuire continued to spruik Collingwood’s achievements during his 22 years at the helm.
“What’s happened on my watch is we’ve built a fantastic club, we’ve commissioned this report, we’ve built all sorts of mechanisms for getting involved in the community, like looking after the homeless … of which we are very proud.
I urge any Collingwood members to cease paying and buying merch until the leadership changes. The club has taken no responsibility and refuses to change. Supporting that board is validating systemic racism. https://t.co/P0yrqveHQQ
— Joshua Wells (@joshuawells93) February 1, 2021
“It was not systemic racism, as such, we just didn’t have the processes to deal with it that we do now.
“I don’t think there’s any shame or disappointment here … this is a day of pride.”
McGuire also said Collingwood has “led the way” in the fight against racism since he became president 22 years ago. “There shouldn’t be anyone trying to have a ‘gotcha’ moment here,” he said.
“If we put ourselves up to be marked, and marked hard. We do so because we believe this is a spot we need to be in to show social justice, natural justice, and a leadership position.
“We’re not rejecting any part of the report. It’s not an investigation … We’re not gonna go after people or prosecute the case back,” he said.
“We wanted to find the feel out there, now we’ve got it, and we’re going to take on board the recommendations.”
The report was delivered to the Collingwood board in December, just days after McGuire announced he would step down at the end of 2021.
Lumumba in December accused Collingwood of trying to bury the findings of the investigation.
He launched legal action in October.
Documents were reportedly filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Wednesday, alleging a “duty of care” breach by Collingwood in providing a safe workplace.
In June, the Magpies announced they would launch an investigation into Lumumba’s allegations of a “culture of racist jokes” during his 10-year stint at the club.
Four months later, Lumumba lodged a Supreme Court claim against Collingwood and the AFL for “failing to protect him from racism”.
In documents filed to the Supreme Court in October, the 2010 premiership player alleged the Pies failed in their “duty of care” to provide a safe working environment.
McGuire has overseen the club since 1998.
Of all the damaging comments made by McGuire on Monday, perhaps the most hurtful thing is that it distracts attention away from the alleged victims of the club’s “systemic racism”.
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