Collingwood president Eddie McGuire voluntarily stepped aside from Fox Footy’s AFL call on Saturday as the fallout deepens over insensitive comments made about the coin toss of Sydney Swans’ No.1 ticket holder, double amputee Cythnia Banham.
After making what the Swans described as “ignorant and inappropriate” comments about Banham’s coin toss, McGuire issued a statement on Saturday saying he had requested to be dropped from the commentary team for the Essendon and St Kilda clash.
“I am deeply sorry and regretful for the comments I made last night about the coin tossing system. I should never have spoken without properly viewing the footage,” the statement read on Fox Footy’s website.
“Out of respect for Cynthia Banham and the Sydney Swans, I have requested not to call today’s game between Essendon and St Kilda,” he said.
“I unreservedly apologise to Cynthia, her family and the Sydney Football Club for the pain and hurt that my comments have caused.”
Ahead of the Bombers and Saints game, Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham told 3AW he had “accepted” McGuire’s apology and spoken to him “extensively” after his comments on Friday.
“It’s not really up to the club to accept any kind of apology, I think it’s a matter between Eddie and Cynthia (Banham) specifically and I guess all we can try to do is manage the situation and take care of the welfare of Cynthia,” Mr Pridham said.
When 3AW asked Mr Pridham if McGuire had made the right decision to not commentate the St Kilda versus Essendon game, he agreed.
“Look, I do. I discussed that with Eddie and I think he’s made the right call and I would highlight that it was his call as I understand it,” Mr Pridham said.
“I think that’s one of the things the football community demands in these situations – that there are consequences when someone steps over the line and does the wrong thing.”
The Swans chairman said he was unsure if the decision was the appropriate consequence, but said McGuire had expressed “genuine contrition” and was “incredibly wounded”.
“I actually accept and have little doubt that Eddie didn’t see the footage properly, but it doesn’t excuse the nature of the comments,” Mr Pridham said.
Fox Footy supported the move, and announced at 2pm on Saturday that McGuire had “made a decision to step aside from his Fox Footy commentary duties”.
“Out of respect for Cynthia Banham after his comments about the coin toss before Friday night’s game between Sydney Swans and Adelaide Crows, McGuire has requested not to call today’s match and has made an unreserved apology after criticising the double amputee’s flipping style.”
Eddie McGuire has made a decision to step aside from his Fox Footy commentary duties for Saturday afternoon’s clash between Essendon and St Kilda. https://t.co/dYG5q1F9qI
— FOX FOOTY (@FOXFOOTY) March 30, 2019
Journalist, author, solicitor and teacher, Banham lost both legs and suffered extensive burns in a 2007 plane crash in Indonesia which killed 21 people.
Her miraculous recovery included giving birth to a child with retired journalist husband Michael Harvey. She wrote about the “emotional baggage” brought to the mother-child relationship for The New Daily last May.
Performing the pre-match ritual before Friday’s SCG fixture between Sydney and Adelaide, former marathon runner Banham held on to her walking stick but took only a brief moment to get her balance right.
Her coin toss had flourish, with the coin landing several metres away.
Still, despite the bold toss, McGuire – who appeared not to be aware of Banham’s background when he made his comments, despite her high profile at the Swans – launched into his comments, saying it “can’t be that hard” to get it right.
“I think we should introduce a $5000 fine to anybody who’s tossing the coin and can’t do it properly,” McGuire said on Fox Footy.
“Every week, we have someone dropping it on their foot. Come on, toss it up properly, for goodness sake.
“Practice in the week, you know you’re going to do it. It can’t be that hard can it, guys?”
Eddie McGuire's apology on Fox Footy tonight regarding comments he made of the coin toss. pic.twitter.com/7975b22Es9
— Rhett Bartlett (@rhettrospective) March 29, 2019
During halftime, McGuire was obviously briefed on Banham’s disability, and looked genuinely remorseful, apologising unreservedly to Banham her family friends, Swans supporters and viewers.
The backlash on social media however was severe, with many fans, commentators and supporters saying he should be “banned” by the AFL for “mocking” a disabled person.
Difficult day to be a #Collingwood supporter thanks to Eddie McGuire dissing & causing pain to a woman I respect more than any & count as a friend. 'It can't be that hard can it?' McGuire mocks plane crash survivor Cynthia Banham's coin toss https://t.co/lzKorlcPoH via @theage
— Paul Daley (@PPDaley) March 29, 2019
— Kenny Ang (@kenny_ang) March 29, 2019
— Kathy McCabe (@McCabeRadar) March 29, 2019
The Swans issued a statement after the SCG clash, won by the Crows, saying they were “incredibly disappointed” by McGuire’s comments.
“The comments show not only a lack of empathy, but also ignorance.
“Cynthia Banham is a passionate Sydney Swans member, our number one ticket holder, and a courageous woman who is an inspiration to all of us at the club.”
The statement said Banham was a key figure behind their Diversity Action Plan, and “regardless of who is invited to toss the coin, they are doing so by invitation and as a recognition of their love of the sport or a club”.
“It is a tradition that should be celebrated,” the club said, adding they were proud to have her toss the coin for the Swans’ first home game of the season at the SGC.
McGuire’s many gaffes
It’s not the first time the Collingwood president has caused controversy, headlines and subsequent apologies for his loose-lip comments.
During McGuire’s brief stint in 2006 at the helm of Channel Nine he made the following comments about Jessica Rowe before she was axed from the Today show.
“What are we gonna do about Jessica? When should we bone her? I reckon it should be next week,” McGuire allegedly said in a conversation with Nine news and current affairs director Mark Llewellyn.
While commentating the Vancouver Winter Olympics with comedian Mick Molloy in 2010, McGuire again made jaws drop.
Molloy said, “they don’t leave anything in the locker room, do they?” referring to the lack of clothing worn by ice skaters.
To this McGuire replied: “They don’t leave anything in the closet either,” before later referring to homosexual love-story film, Brokeback Mountain.
But likely the most infamous gaffe is McGuire’s comments following a young Collingwood supporter calling Sydney Swans champion Adam Goodes an “ape” in 2013.
While discussing the then-upcoming King Kong musical on radio station Triple M, McGuire suggested that Goodes should promote the show and said, “Get Adam Goodes down for it, d’you reckon?”