Héritier Lumumba questions why Collingwood players can say what club leadership won’t

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Héritier Lumumba has acknowledged the sincerity of the apology penned by current Collingwood players, but has questioned the club’s motives for releasing it shortly after it a report found it was guilty of systemic racism.

An open letter from 150 current footballers and netballers at the club was released by Collingwood on Thursday in response to the findings of the Do Better report that was leaked on Monday.

In it, the players apologised for their part in allowing a culture of systemic racism to grow at the club.

“We are sorry to anyone who, through their association with our club, has been marginalised, hurt or discriminated against due to their race,” the letter read.


“Through our silence we feel responsible for these injustices. … We will confront the history of our club in order to learn, heal and determine how best to walk forward together.”

Lumumba, who has made a series of allegations of racism against the club over a number of years pertaining to his time at Collingwood, said while he did not doubt the sincerity of the players’ shock and shame, it was striking that the club’s leadership had not made similar statements.

“It’s strange that young players — who are not responsible for the administration and culture of the club — have issued an unconditional statement acknowledging harm when the management and leadership of the club have yet to do so,” Lumumba tweeted.

“‘All staff and players’ surely includes black players and staff, as well as players and staff of colour. Why should they be apologising for racism?”

He also questioned whether the people at the club who he says have tried to discredit him over the years were included in the 120 staff who “endorsed and supported fully” the message of the letter.

“I continue to be overwhelmed by Collingwood members and fans expressing their shame and remorse over the club’s past, as well as their frustrations that the club cannot simply do the same.”

Lumumba has previously said he has no faith in the current regime in instituting real change.

The initial response to the report from club president Eddie McGuire, who said that it was a “historic and proud day” for Collingwood, drew criticism and then a retraction.

Magpie calls on fans to do better as well

Collingwood’s Taylor Adams followed up on the letter of apology from players, urging fans to join the club in doing better.

On Thursday, the club released an open letter from a group of “150 footballers and netballers of Collingwood”, saying sorry for the culture of systemic racism the report had found.

A grinning AFL player holds his hands up to high five teammates after kicking a goal.
Collingwood’s Taylor Adams says players were saddened that people have felt marginalised and discriminated at the club.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

Speaking on ABC local radio, Adams was asked if it was fans as well as players and staff at Collingwood who had to consider change.

“Absolutely, I think the purpose of this report is to ensure that anyone involved with the Collingwood sporting club, and organisation understands what our values are, and aligns themselves, aligns our values as an organisation with the personal values of anyone who wants to associate with us,” Adams said.

“That’s really important. The report recommends an audit of players, staff, administrators and board to determine whether personal values align with the club values, moving forward.”

Asked what should happen if peoples’ values did not align with the club, Adams replied: “Obviously their (report authors Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt and Professor Lindon Coombes from University of Technology Sydney) recommendation is that there be change.”

Pressed on whether that meant that fans who did not abandon racist views should go elsewhere, Adams agreed.

“This is what we’re standing for now, and by doing this, by understanding the contents of this report, as athletes, by facing up to our truths, and putting our hand up and saying we were wrong, and that we have been wrong, and that this is the way we’re going to move forward.

“We’ve asked for recommendations, they’ve been provided. Now we must follow them, and that includes anyone that wants to associate themselves with the Collingwood sporting organisation.”

Asked whether there had been times when he had felt uncomfortable at the club, Adams said: “There are highly spoken-about moments within our organisation that have been publicised, I don’t think I need to go into specifics here.

“The report doesn’t necessarily mention exact moments or individuals who have been racially vilified … it’s about the systemic racism that has been within our organisation.”

The association of former Collingwood Football Club players also released a statement, saying they were looking forward to helping the club and the rest of the league grow and change in the wake of the report.

“The Do Better report states that whilst much progress has been made there is much more to do to ensure the systems and processes are in place to be consistent in dealing with issues such as racism when they occur,” the statement from Collingwood Football Past Players Association president Paul Tuddenham read.

“We will be asking the board to ensure these structures are developed and implemented as a matter of urgency to give the support and education required to all our current players and staff.”

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