September 10th, 2020
To the Collingwood Football Club Board of Directors,
We are lifelong dedicated Collingwood fans writing to you straight from the heart, to let you know, loud and clear, that the time has come to confront our Club’s racist past.
Our hearts broke for Nicky Winmar in 1993, when he endured racial insults from Collingwood fans. The Monkhorst and Long incident in 1995 required the humility and character of those two individuals to find healing and spur the inspiring Long Walk initiative. More recently, the course of Australian of the Year Adam Goodes’s life and career were changed forever, after name-calling and jeering at a Collingwood game in 2013 and even 2010 Premiership champion Heritier Lumumba was cast aside when brave enough to speak publicly against racism ignored by the Club. These are just a few examples of such incidents, and more keep coming to light, the wounds of which remain open to this day.
Our complaint is that this specific problem at our Club has for too long extended from the rooms to the stands, yet it has never been recognised or acknowledged as a pattern of behaviour. Instead, each incident has been treated as unique, or buried in an “internal investigation” that limits scope and history, lest it reveal a long legacy of insult and hurt. This protects a culture that has no place in a respectful organisation, whilst failing to atone for a history that should shame us all. A formal recognition and apology is the only true path to a better future.
There are many fine initiatives outlined in the Club’s Reconciliation Action Plan, but aside from that, to truly “reconcile” one must first acknowledge specific wrongs and the pain they have caused. That is not the job of the people who worked hard on the Plan. Rather, it is a moral responsibility of the Club’s leaders, who preside over a powerful organisation, which is clearly infected by systemic racism and has been for far too long. Phrases like “Fairness and equal opportunity for all” (as concludes Nathan Buckley’s introduction to the Plan), much like “all lives matter”, blithely avoid the point, whilst neglecting to pay attention to those harmed.
Systemic racism is not unique to Collingwood and it thrives upon the false notion that harm can only be done by those who harbour ill-intent. We need to explore why these abuses have been normalised and repeated, and address them directly and comprehensively. Collingwood is the most powerful club in the land, and the league and our civil society needs its leadership.
As fans, we can acknowledge the wrongs and the harm our Club has caused, and we apologise for our own public silence. But we do not hold the power and status of the Board. While we defer to the Indigenous community for the remedies they seek, we believe that the Collingwood Football Club, Ltd. must take at least the following actions:
- Public acknowledgment of the history of harm and an apology for a pattern of racist incidents
- Official Club policy on racial equality, justice and fairness that anyone who comes into the Club, in any capacity (member, ticket-holder, cheer squad participant, player, coach, board, staff, etc.), must agree to honour
- Firm stated penalties for violation of that policy, including a mechanism for fair hearings and enforcement
- Independent oversight
Make no mistake, we are huge fans of not just the Club, but also the Indigenous contributions and partnerships we see in the Plan. We applaud Jodie Sizer (an Indigenous woman) being appointed as one of the eight members of the board. But in order for all the programs we see in the Plan to connect to the truth of the past, we must break the silence on why we’re here in the first place. Let us all directly address the core problem right back to its origins. There is still an opportunity to heal the wounds, but first we must apologise. We must take leadership. Only then can we be truly proud of our club. And at last, move forward side by side.
Collingwood Fans Care