ACTING captain Jaeger O'Meara hopes Hawthorn can repair its relationship with retired star Cyril Rioli, saying it has made "strong grounds" on Indigenous issues.
Rioli and his wife Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli are estranged from the club, with the Norm Smith medallist and four-time premiership player saying he will not be involved there while Jeff Kennett remains president.
It is the result of issues Rioli said fractured the relationship between Hawthorn and its Indigenous players until his premature retirement in 2018, aged 28.
Rioli and his wife have detailed some Kennett comments they found offensive and also told of racist incidents that the club legend said contributed to his decision to retire.
Hawthorn released a statement from CEO Justin Reeves on Monday evening, saying the club had spoken to all its First Nations players and would "continue to listen and learn".
>> READ HAWTHORN'S FULL STATEMENT BELOW
"We have spoken to our current First Nations players who have said they feel culturally safe at the club," Reeves said.
"They have also said they are confident that our environment is one where they could use their voice if they needed to raise concerns and that those concerns would be acted upon.
"But we cannot assume that has always been the case."
O'Meara said on Monday afternoon that he had been upset to hear of Rioli's distress.
"I was really saddened to see some of the comments - I wasn't here at that time, so all I can comment on is what we're doing at the moment," O'Meara said.
"We're making some really strong grounds in this space."
O'Meara played with Rioli at Hawthorn for 18 months before he left the game.
"I love the bloke, he's a very loveable character ... to see those comments, it really saddens you," O'Meara said.
"He'd walk into the club with a smile on his face all the time and brighten your day as well.
"We all want to rekindle that relationship and obviously there's a bit of a torn relationship there at the moment with Cyril and Shannyn.
'IT SADDENS ME' Mitchell wants Cyril back in fold
"So I'm really hopeful the club can put some steps in place ... we're really trying to get better in this space."
But O'Meara would not be drawn on whether Kennett should resign immediately, saying that is for the club board to decide.
"Obviously Jeff has been a politician and he's got a voice. But I don't read too much into any of those sorts of comments," he said.
O'Meara said club officials had spoken to the players on Saturday morning about Rioli's comments.
"Our Indigenous players feel really culturally safe at the moment, so that's all I can speak to," O'Meara said.
DAMIAN BARRETT Four years on, Hawks must deal with Kennett-Rioli saga
"They're like brothers to us and we really want to nurture that. They're also doing a great job in educating us as well.
"Sam (coach Sam Mitchell) is really passionate about this, and not just because of these comments that have come out.
"Since he's taken over ... he's put some different things in place because he wants to improve the football club in this space."
More broadly, O'Meara said the club felt "completely different" since Mitchell took over from Alastair Clarkson.
"It's been refreshing to have a bit of a change," he said.
He is excited about the season so far, with the Hawks 2-1 after recovering from a slow start and losing to Carlton on Sunday by one point.
"We want to build a brand that will stand up in finals," O'Meara said.
Statement from Hawthorn CEO Justin Reeves
The past four days has been a time of reflection for our club.
A time to continue to listen and learn.
We have spoken to our current First Nations players who have said they feel culturally safe at the club. They have also said they are confident that our environment is one where they could use their voice if they needed to raise concerns and that those concerns would be acted upon.
But we cannot assume that has always been the case.
We will continue to have conversations with a range of past and current players, community leaders, the AFL and experts in this space so we can build a stronger future.
Through these conversations, we will look to identify and offer support to those who may be in need. It is important that we dedicate the appropriate resources and time to this process.
We are committed to learning from our past and we will always seek to be better.