EDDIE McGuire says Collingwood is "not a racist club" and that he plans to see out the final year of his presidency at the Magpies after a damning independent review found 'systemic racism' at the club.
The Pies said the 'Do Better' report commissioned by Collingwood was due to be released in coming weeks after being delivered to the Magpies prior to Christmas.
However, the club was forced to front the media on Monday after the 35-page document leaked, with McGuire describing it as "a historic and proud day" for the Magpies as they push to change their approach to confronting racism.
The report did not review the allegations made by 2010 premiership player Heritier Lumumba, who has said he was nicknamed 'chimp' during his time at the club, because Lumumba did not wish to be involved in the process but McGuire said the Magpies wanted to reconnect with the former defender.
"We want to engage with Heritier. He's one of our guys. He doesn't feel that at the moment and it breaks our heart. We want him desperately to be one of us. We want to show everyone that this is what we're all about. We're not a mean-spirited club. We're not a racist club," McGuire said.
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"We're a club that tries to do well. We make mistakes. We're a big church. But what we want to do more than anything is to put our arms around, and take the heat out of this constant race debate.
"We've seen it in the last couple of weeks. It doesn't go away. So if it means we have to put ourselves up and cop some whacks along the journey, so be it."
McGuire, who shocked when he announced in December that he would be leaving his chair as Collingwood president at the end of 2021 with two years left on his term, said the report had no influence on that call and that he had not considered standing down immediately in its wake.
"No, it didn't [have any impact]. In fact the only decision it had on that was to make sure that I was here to implement these things over the next 12 months," he said.
"I am absolutely dedicated, as I said at the time and will continue to say today, to make sure that we roll out all of these recommendations but also build further on that. That's what I want to build in the next 12 months."
The report found that the club's response to repeated incidents of racism was not at the correct level, labelling it "at best ineffective, or at worst exacerbated the impact".
But McGuire said the release of the report highlighted Collingwood's stance to make a change and that although some parts were difficult to read – "We didn't want a beauty competition," he said – it had to be strong.
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"It's a day of pride. If we're going to get anywhere, we have to get past the idea of tearing down people, tearing down institutions who are prepared to look within themselves to make the hard decisions to make things different," he said.
The Pies said they were planning to release the report in coming weeks.
"We were going to do it later on, to be honest. We had planned this week to meet with the authors but it leaked today so we're here today. But we would have liked to have taken a little bit more time, continue to go through the process of what we wanted to do and make some announcements," McGuire said.
Collingwood players were briefed on Monday about the findings of the report as the Magpies look to "thoroughly" implement the 18 recommendations.
READ THE FULL 'DO BETTER' REPORT Download the PDF here
"Our players and our staff are all part of that journey and absolutely committed," said Magpies CEO Mark Anderson.
"What I love about our players is there's a real engagement and a real want to do better and be better as well. We will absolutely engage with our players."
AFL social policy and inclusion manager Tanya Hosch said we all must continue to confront the issue of racism across all areas of the community.
"'Proud' is not a word I would use."— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) February 1, 2021
AFL executive @tanyahosch on Eddie McGuire's response to the Collingwood racism report.
Ms Hosch tells @paulwkennedy it "wouldn't surprise me at all" if more AFL players came forward to share their experiences. pic.twitter.com/6VMklV0Dy8
"These are hard conversations we need to have in order to become better as clubs, as a code and as a football community. We will continue to strengthen our commitment to confront, understand and fight all forms of racism and discrimination, on and off the field," Hosch said.
"If any player, at any level of the game has been subject to vilification and not had the positive experience in football that we wish for all players to have, our commitment to you is to do everything in our power to listen to you, understand your experiences, support you, and act against further incidents.
"The AFL will also listen to and learn from the report and will continue to work with clubs and players wherever our game is played to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all."