Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley says he’s keen to speak to Heritier Lumumba following his allegations of racism he says he was subjected to during his career with the club.
Lumumba took to social media this week to detail his experiences during 10 years at the Magpies, claiming he endured a “culture of racist jokes” and took magic mushrooms to cope with the situation.
The 33-year-old, who retired from football in 2016 after repeated concussion problems, also accused Buckley of failing to adequately support him.
Lumumba said neither the AFL nor Collingwood had the capacity or desire to address the issues he raised, branding them both “negligent”.
After Collingwood’s draw with Richmond in the AFL season re-opener on Thursday night, Buckley said he’d not spoken to Lumumba since the former defender was traded to Melbourne at the end of 2014.
However, Buckley is keen to welcome Lumumba back to the club, while club president Eddie McGuire says he is keen to “fund a solution”.
“I’m not comfortable with the fact that Heritier feels like he’s been belittled and diminished in our environment,” Buckley said.
“I haven’t spoken to ‘H’ since 2014. I’d love to speak to him again.
“I would love to have him come to his old football club and to see what we have become, and the culture of acceptance, a celebration of difference no matter your colour, your religion or whatever your upbringing has been.”
Lumumba this week also reiterated the claim that he was called “Chimp” by Collingwood teammates, which was publicly backed up by Andrew Krakouer in 2017.
While not specifically addressing that claim, Buckley said Collingwood had “been able to grow as an environment” in the time that has passed since Lumumba left.
“We were growing when he was there and he was a big part of it, and we’re still growing,” Buckley said.
“But I’m really proud of the club that we are now and I would love to share that with him because he’s been a big part of that.
“I’ll continue to try to reach out to listen to him to see if there’s something that we can do about how he has felt about his experiences at the club.”
Club president Eddie McGuire said he had tried to reach out to Lumumba in the past.
“I’m not going to get into the comments other than this: Heritier Lumumba was a valued member of the Collingwood Football Club and remains to this day,” McGuire said on Channel 9.
“I continually try to reach out to Heritier. In fact, earlier this year I was in Los Angeles and tried to find him, because I want to bring him home to give him a life membership at the Collingwood Football Club.
“Heritier has spoken to Fox Sports in the last 24 hours and I’m going to try again to reach out.
“We want to find a solution.
“We’re all about trying to get a solution. We’re not defending ourselves. We put ourselves out there.
“I’m really proud of what we do at Collingwood, as far as the Magpies’ Nest and what we do with our Indigenous programs.”
Buckley’s comments came just a few hours after Collingwood and Richmond players had come together in the middle of the MCG and taken a knee in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.