Melbourne: A leaked report has condemned a “toxic” culture of systemic racism at the Collingwood Australian Rules football club, one of the country’s largest sporting organisations, reports said Monday.
Collingwood commissioned the independent probe by Aboriginal academic Larissa Behrendt last year after former player Heritier Lumumba alleged he faced discrimination while at the club, including being nicknamed “chimp”.
Behrendt found there was a long history of racist incidents involving the Melbourne-based side which had not been addressed by its leadership.
“What is clear is that racism at the club has resulted in profound and enduring harm to First Nations and African players,” Behrendt wrote, according to multiple media reports citing the document.
“The racism affected them, their communities, and set dangerous norms for the public.”
The damning report said the issue was more pronounced at Collingwood, which was established in 1892, than other clubs in the Australian Football League (AFL), the country’s most popular spectator sport.
“While claims of racism have been made across the AFL, there is something distinct and egregious about Collingwood’s history,” it concluded.
Possible remedies included “reparations, compensation, public apology, and commitments to reform”.
The report said Lumumba’s allegations warranted a separate inquiry but cited other incidents involving the club, including a clash that led to one of the most powerful images associated with racism in Australian sport.
It occurred when Indigenous St Kilda player Nicky Winmar responded to abuse from Collingwood supporters in 1993 by lifting his shirt while facing the crowd and pointing to his skin.
Essendon’s Michael Long, another Aboriginal player, in 1995 complained about on-field racial abuse during a clash, also involving Collingwood.
Star Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes was called an “ape” by a young Collingwood fan in 2013 and his distressed response prompted racist chants for the rest of his career, prompting his early retirement.
Collingwood chairman Eddie McGuire exacerbated the offence when he suggested on radio that Goodes should be hired to promote the musical “King Kong”.
McGuire announced in December he would step down at the end of the 2021 season, promising “a new era” for the club.
Behrendt said Collingwood needed a club-wide cultural shift, including the introduction of policies to address racism and more support for those reporting the issue.
There was no immediate response from Collingwood to the leaking of the report or its contents.