• Heritier Lumumba and Nathan Buckley speaking during a game. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
An open letter signed by prominent Indigenous leaders, politicians, academics and sporting greats is calling on Collingwood's Eddie McGuire to step down.
Jack Latimore, Sarah Collard

9 Feb 2021 - 6:02 AM  UPDATED 9 Feb 2021 - 6:19 AM

A open letter demanding Collingwood Football Club remove its president Eddie McGuire was released on Wednesday.

The letter has been signed by prominent Indigenous leaders, politicians, writers, academics and sporting greats who say that McGuire is incapable of addressing systemic racism entrenched in the club.

The letter also demands that the Collingwood FC appoint an experienced person to oversee that all the recommendations from the Do Better report leaked last week are implemented at the club. 

Greens senator Lidia Thorpe is a prominent sigantory on the letter and in a statement released on Wednesday said the club needed to take "real action from the top down".

"For too long this club, led by Eddie McGuire, has been at the forefront of systemic, discriminatory racism," said Ms Thorpe.

"Sports clubs and their leaders are meant to be role models in our community. How are we allowing people like Eddie McGuire, in such high positions of power, to continue with his leadership role? Eddie's got to go."

Chair of Professional Footballers Australia and former Socceroo, Francis Awaritefe is also a signatory to the letter and described the findings of the Collingwood FC commissioned 'Do Better' report as a "watershed moment" for the club and the AFL.

"It is time for deep-seated, substantitive, systemic and cultural change," said Mr Awaritefe.

Pressure is mounting on the club to dump McGuire after the report, led by the Jumbunna Institutes's Professor Larissa Behrendt and Professor Lindon Coombes, found the club was beset with a toxic culture and systemic racism.

Over seventy people signed the open letter, including Professor Gary Foley; former AFL star Nathan Lovett-Murray; Mick Gooda, former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; and legendary Aboriginal sports photographer Barbara McGrady.

Labor Member for Wills Peter Khalil; Labor Member for Cowan Anne Aly; and Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi also endorsed the letter.

Prominent academics and writers who signed include Celeste Liddle, Dr Tony Birch, Chelsea Bond, Ghassan Hage, Randa Abdel-Fattah, Maxine Beneba-Clark, Benjamin Law, and poet Omar Sakr, winner of the 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Award.

Last week, after the 'Do Better' report emerged, former Collingwood player Heritier Lumumba told NITV News his well-documneted experiences of racism at the club were an indictment on broader Australia.

“I can't help but just see that the Collingwood Football Club is really a microcosm of the greater Australian narrative" he said.  

"There's an unpreparedness or inability or lack of desire to reconcile with its checkered, brutal past and that it has inflicted severe pain on individuals and communities and families."

Mr Lumumba repeatedly called out the Collingwood FC for dismissing his complaints of racial abuse and discrimination experienced when he was a player at the club between 2005 and 2014.

The open letter says the club’s response to systemic racism in its ranks is "unacceptable" and "dangerous".

"We believe Eddie McGuire has proven himself incapable of leading the Collingwood Football Club through any meaningful transformation. We call on him to step down immediately," the letter goes on to say. 

"A finding of systemic racism is not an excuse for powerful individuals to avoid accountability by blaming a lack of policies and procedures.

"A finding of systemic racism is not an excuse for powerful individuals to avoid accountability by blaming a lack of policies and procedures."

The letter said past and current players have been failed by the club and the wider sporting community.

"We stand with Nicky Winmar, Michael Long, Adam Goodes, Joel Wilkinson, and all those who have been subject to vilification by the club, its fans, and within the club itself. 

"Both Collingwood and the AFL have demonstrated that they are not capable of responding to this report and its findings in an appropriate way, we as a community have no choice but to act."

The letter said a change in leadership would give the club a chance to dismantle racism embedded within it and allow those within the organisation to move forward. 

"We believe that there are administrators, staff, fans and members of the Collingwood Football Club who truly wish to see it transcend its history. This can only happen with a radical shift in leadership."

The letter further urged the Collingwood Football Club's lucrative sponsors, including Coles, Nike and Emirates Airlines to reject racism.

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