Eddie McGuire broke down in tears during a press conference to announce his resignation as chair of the Collingwood Football Club yesterday afternoon.
The controversial media personality was due to step down after 22 years in the hot-seat (excuse the pun) at the end of 2021, but following a damning report into the club’s culture of racism which was released last week, and McGuire’s astonishing response to it all, calls for his immediate resignation were swift and emphatic.
A quick recap for anyone holding any confusion over the whole sorry saga: Eddie McGuire announced the report signalled “a day of pride”. Yep, that’s right. Systemic racism= a proud day in Eddie McGuire’s book.
“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 … of which we are very proud,” he said.
“It was not systemic racism, as such, we just didn’t have the processes to deal with it that we do now.”
No, Eddie. It was, most definitely, systemic racism.
The report described Collingwood’s history with racism as “distinct and egregious”, and demanded that stakeholders take action to change the club’s culture. But no such action was discussed at the press conference in which McGuire described the report’s release as a “very proud” day.
The AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan suggested mildly that he would “have used a different word” from “proud”, but then affirmed McGuire as the right person to make changes. Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews agreed the Collingwood chair should stay put.
The public didn’t agree.
And while McGuire eventually retracted his horrifying comments, it’s clear from his response yesterday that he harbours no true remorse nor the capacity to reflect.
“I tried my best and I don’t always get it right, but I don’t stop trying,” he said. “Today, effective immediately, I step down from the presidency of the Collingwood Football Club.
Describing himself as a “lightning rod for vitriol”, he claimed backlash against him had been unfair.
“From the moment I became the president of the Collingwood Football Club on my 34th birthday back in 1998, my sole motivation was to heal, unite, inspire and drive a new social conscience, not just into this club, but sport and the community in general and build an organisation that would be a place for opportunity for all people,” he claimed.
But it was McGuire’s parting remarks that were deeply telling. Reeling off a number of programs which apparently illustrated the club’s commitment to social justice and inclusion (hard to fathom given the content of the report) McGuire said “this is why I say we are not a racist club. Far from it.”
And in that single sentence lies the crux of why Eddie McGuire’s time was well and truly up. After numerous transgressions, Eddie McGuire is always quick to say sorry but never to learn from his mistakes.
From blaming “heavy-duty painkillers” on his racist slurs against former Indigenous player Adam Goodes to suggesting his death threats against sports journalist Caroline Wilson were merely “banter” , McGuire will apologise but it’s never unconditional. His apologies are an attempt to quell the backlash but never an attempt to quell his own conscience.
His response to this scandal– and the news that countless non-White Collingwood players have experienced mental and emotional torment for years– is shameful. He could have done so much more in the position he was in. He could have laid a stake in the ground and showed true leadership through accountability.
Instead he reverted to the Eddie of old: A hollow apology, some crocodile tears and a whole lot of inaction.
And now, we’re primed for a new era.