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An independent investigation into the Collingwood Football Club has found that the club has a problem with structural racism and should be made to publicly make amends to those who have paid a “very high public price” for calling them out on it previously.

The “Do Better” report was commissioned by the Collingwood board last year, with University of Technology Sydney’s Larissa Behrendt (a highly distinguished professor and a Yuwalaraay woman) making a number of professional recommendations on how the club can fix the ongoing racism issues.

“What is clear is that racism at the Club has resulted in profound and enduring harm to First Nations and African players. The racism affected them, their communities, and set dangerous norms for the public,” the report said, according to the ABC.

Behrendt’s findings concluded that the club should publicly make amends to those who have been hurt by the racism previously, with the report not ruling out financial compensation as one way to make reparations.

Making amends could include “reparations, compensation, public apology and commitments to reform,” according to the report.

In total, the review makes 18 recommendations after finding that the club’s response to racism was “at best ineffective, or at worst exacerbated the impact of the racist incidents.”

In addition to righting the wrongs of their past, the report recommends that Collingwood establish a strong truth-telling process, which should be led by an expert group on anti-racism to be able to hold them accountable for any mishandlings moving forward.

The report found that despite the long history of race-related incidents involving the club, they had no policies (until recently) on how to report or handle these issues. Obviously, this is super concerning but it’s particularly damning when you consider that the club is reportedly linked to a majority of the racism-related issues in the sport.

“There is a strong view external to the Club that, whenever there is a racist incident in the AFL, Collingwood is somehow involved with it. This perception has led some to conclude that Collingwood has become synonymous with off-field and on-field racism in Australian sport and others to observe that there is something distinctive about racism at the Collingwood Football Club. As one person we spoke to said – ‘if you look at every high-profile incident of racism in the game, Collingwood is there somewhere.’”

Despite the club having four formal values to adhere to, 30 interviews with members of the club found no unified consensus as to what the club actually stands for. This prompted the report to strongly recommend that anti-racism and inclusion be added to the values, and actually adhered to.

“While claims of racism have been made across the AFL, there is something distinct and egregious about Collingwood’s history. In the thirty interviews undertaken for this review, there was no clear consensus about what the values of the Collingwood Football Club were. Collingwood claims to be guided by four formal values – belonging, commitment, realising potential and caring. There is a gap between what Collingwood Football Club says it stands for and what it does,” the report found.

The report was commissioned in June 2020 after former player Héritier Lumumba made a number of claims that he was subjected to some pretty intense racism throughout his 10 years at the club, including – but not limited to – being nicknamed “chimp.”

However, his allegations were not included in the report as he is in the midst of a lawsuit against the club and the AFL for the alleged racist abuse he faced during his time.

Lumumba also noted that he had no desire to talk to “the same organisation who have worked to publicly discredit my truth so that they can decide on its value.”

The authors of the report made a strong point to clarify that “nothing in this review can be taken as exonerating the club from any alleged wrongdoing” in relation to Lumumba’s case.

Image: Getty Images / Quinn Rooney