Former Collingwood FC player, Heritier Lumumba, has described watching a press conference of club leaders responding to an unofficially released report into culture inside the organisation as, 'painful'.
Mr Lumumba called out comments made on Monday by the club's president, Eddie McGuire, in response to the 'Do Better' report, an independent review commissioned by Collingwood FC into its responses to incidents of racism and cultural safety in the workplace.
Going on the offensive in response to the contents of the report being made public, Mr McGuire described the revelations as "a proud day". The report, led by UTS Jumbunna Institute's Larissa Behrendt, details a 'toxic culture' within the club and the presence of systemic racism.
The report was tabled to Collingwood FC management in mid-December last year, with Mr McGuire annoucing shortly afterwards that he would step away from presiding over the club at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
The report was leaked to the media and became public on Sunday.
Mr Lumumba said he was 'bewildered' by the response he saw from the Collingwood FC leadership at the media conference on Monday.
"That that was the best that the Collingwood football club could do when it comes to owning what was revealed in the report," Mr Lumumba said.
"They had six weeks to sit on it as well. They didn't even want it to come out for a start. But within six weeks of having received the report that was what they came up with.
"It was painful to watch, it really was. It was painful. It's clear that he (McGuire) hasn't done a lot of self-reflection on his own actions.
"What it tells me is that he is someone that's in denial. It's someone that doesn't have the courage to own his shortcomings. And that really is to the detriment of not just the Collingwood football club and all the players, supporters, and fans, but the entire community."
Mr Lumumba told NITV News he requested to see the report when it was released in December, but Collingwood FC refused to share it with him. Another request to view the report was made to the club in early January.
Instead, Mr Lumumba found out the contents of the report this week, through the media.
'Racism is everywhere'
Mr Lumumba said the issues at Collingwood FC are a "microcosm" of what happens in the AFL code and in wider Australian society.
Mr Lumumba's friend and social commentator, Aamer Rahman, told NITV News on Tuesday that the problem was much bigger than Collingwood.
"Australia, we know, is culturally behind when it comes to dealing with race, and that trickles down through all aspects of our lives," he said.
"You only need to look at the way Indigenous people have been treated and the way multicultural communities have been treated at a federal level.
"First Nations and People of Colour in Australia know what it's like to be a punching bag, basically, and Collingwood is a massive institution. This isn't a football club. This is a major public institution sending a message about how they think victims of racism should be treated."
The AFL's General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch, said the 'Do Better' report heralded an opportunity for the AFL as a whole to look within itself to address issues of racism.
"Racism is everywhere," she said.
"On that basis I wouldn't expect not to find it in the AFL organisation, the sporting code more broadly, any other sporting code and all of our institutions."
Ms Hosch told NITV News the report sets out a pathway for Collingwood to address the issues identified in the findings.
"Some of the things I can see that will help pave the way...the establishment of an expert panel on anti-racism and having the guidance of people who have that kind of expertise and will be able to speak truthfully to the organisation," she said.
"There's a recommendation that asks the club to think about reparations and to think about apologies, and things of that nature.
"I think that the report is very clear that in order to move forward, you do have to acknowledge your history and your past."
Speaking to NITV Radio, First People's Sports Foundation director, Gary Murray, said racism needed to be dealt with properly in any context.
"What have been the penalties that have been going on and off the footy field and in Gariwerd and elsewhere?" he said.
"What have been the consequences and what have been the outcomes? So if someone calls someone an “Abo” on the footy field they get nailed properly."
"The Collingwood Football Club has got to look at their constitution and they’ve got to bring in -if it’s not already in there- really stiff penalties for members who go outside the constitution in terms of behaviour, misconduct and racism."
Jason Tamiru is the grandson of AFL legend Sir Doug Nicholls, and has supported Collingwood his whole life, but he told NITV News he now finds it difficult to call himself a supporter of the club.
"I don't know if I'm a fan, I don't know if I barrack for them," he said.
"In Victoria, AFL is religion. You're born into a club. That club you follow through your whole life.
"It's a strange feeling. I've got strong views on racism and I won't stand for it. I've been thinking, you know, why do I still support this club?"
Mr Tamiru said he expected Collingwood's leadership would be feeling "rotten and lousy" following the release of the report. But he said they should consider how they have made players and fans feel throughout the club's history.
"That lousy, rotten feeling that they're feeling: that's what Aboriginal people have felt because of racism at that club for years," he said.