A historic and proud day, hey?

What a bamboozling response after revelations were made public of a bombshell report that found Collingwood and its Eddie McGuire-led board oversaw systemic racism.

Monday's 55-minute press conference was positive spin layered upon positive spin in a one-team competition of backslapping.

McGuire had the opportunity to make the honourable decision and relinquish the presidency.

He didn't.

He has vowed to make Collingwood better, all the while being one of the reasons why Collingwood needed - and asked for, it must be said - the independent review in the first place.

He should have opened the press conference with a sincere apology, spoken about the shame and embarrassment of this "historic day'' and accepted individual responsibility for his role, minor or major, in where the Collingwood Football Club finds itself.

And then stood down immediately.

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Eddie McGuire must step down now as Collingwood president. Picture: AAP Images
Eddie McGuire must step down now as Collingwood president. Picture: AAP Images

Not at the end of the season, as he planned, but yesterday.

Once again, he did not raise his hand and accept he has been central to - and influential in - the systemic racism the review clearly believes abounded at Collingwood.

The report took aim at the board time and time again, and for that McGuire has to take responsibility.

Instead, he wants to fix the problem. He wants to right the wrongs.

There were mentions of mistakes and "mishaps'' in the past, but they were quickly incinerated in McGuire's telling by the gloriousness of what's being addressed at the club now, such as "mechanisms and processes and systems and applications''.

The club's heart was in a good place, he said.

Still, it was a moment when McGuire could have given the club clean air. For he has polluted it several times.

 

The independent report, which the Herald Sun revealed on Monday, did not say so categorically, but left no one in doubt that it found an unhealthy level of responsibility lay at the feet of the president.

"There is a culture of individuals, if not quite being bigger than the club, then at least having an unhealthy ­degree of influence over club culture,'' the report said.

This comment was made not on the basis of Heritier Lumumba's accusations of racism, nor his legal proceedings as the report noted that Lumumba did not engage with its authors.

No, this was about everything else, including the casual racism of which McGuire is repeatedly guilty.

The jokes. The laughs. About King Kong and falafels. And about how McGuire never meant to be offensive, all while being offensive.

Boom boom is now ka-boom.

Monday was a damning, damaging and shameful day for McGuire and Collingwood.

The Pies attempted to spin it in their favour by declaring it a day for humanity and saying they would lead the charge in the fight against racism. But the spin could not outweigh the realities of the past.

McGuire has presided over some of the period - which extended back well before his tenure - that will forever stain the football club.

The independent review found the club and some of its individuals racist.

Even McGuire, who is sharp on his feet, could not dispute the findings, although one comment by him was corrected by chief executive Mark Anderson.

As has become common, any negative media about Collingwood, coach Nathan Buckley or the president is met with customary McGuire bullying.

He often dismisses it as "sensationalism'' or "clickbait'' or "bias'' without addressing the issue.

Monday's revelations were not clickbait. They were a wounding truth and its scars are indelible.

The review found "systemic racism within the Collingwood Football Club that must be addressed if things are to change".

The 35-page report reads like a First Landing document you'd find at the Melbourne museum.

"Racism at the club has resulted in profound and enduring harm to First Nations and African players,'' it said. "The racism affected them, their communities, and set dangerous norms for the public.''

The AFL is not without blame, either.

When the Adam Goodes gag about King Kong exploded, the AFL did not punish or even widely condemn McGuire.

The AFL will suspend fans for boofhead behaviour, but is reluctant to be as heavy-handed with its highest office holders at club land.

Look at the AFL's response to Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett's racial jab at the aisle walkers at Marvel Stadium in June 2019.

No punishment. No charges of bringing the game into disrepute.

The commission, and chief executive Gillon McLachlan, have to ask themselves: Did we do enough to stamp out this casual, unacceptable racism?

The timing of McGuire's decision to stand down as president is curious.

The 2021 season was meant to be Eddie McGuire’s last as president. Picture: AAP Images
The 2021 season was meant to be Eddie McGuire’s last as president. Picture: AAP Images

In February 2020, he was reappointed for three years. Ten months later, on December 14, he announced he would stand down at the end of 2021. On December 17, Collingwood received the independent report.

Oddly, his announcement on December 14 included the revelation he had planned to stand down "earlier in the year''. Only months after being reappointed?

Did McGuire jump knowing what the review would conclude?

He said on Monday he did not, stressing he was determined to implement the review's recommendations and that he had, eek, full support at the board table.

When calls for McGuire to step down were made during the club's controversial salary cap "fire sale" late last year, the president, in his final days working at Triple M, said in part Collingwood was his priority.

"If the day comes where I'm not wanted at Collingwood, don't worry, I'm not going to be the one being dragged out the door,'' he said.

"I am there as a servant of a club that I love and a servant to football.

"And that's what I'm there for.''

At 33, McGuire was a meteor-like arrival as president on a raucous night at Camberwell Civic Centre. It was October 29, 1998, and he was Trump-like with his fervour and self belief.

McGuire turns 57 this year and he will leave the role with many, many ticks, but also with a litany of errors.

He will depart being the figurehead of a club found to be systemically racist.

Monday could have been the "historic" day when McGuire accepted responsibility for what had occurred at the club under his watch.

It was the day to stand aside.

Originally published as Robbo: Eddie's spin can't outweigh realities of the past



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