Former AFL player Heritier Lumumba says a lack of “anti-racist policies” allowed a culture of discrimination to fester within the Collingwood Football Club, leading to racist jokes and comments.
Lumumba’s claims that he was regularly called “chimp” by other players is now the subject of an internal Collingwood investigation, however current coach Nathan Buckley and his predecessor Mick Malthouse say they never heard the slur.
Speaking to ABC Radio Melbourne on Thursday, Lumumba said he heard jokes about black penises and other comments about racial stereotypes from the beginning of his 10-year stint at the Magpies.
Lumumba said “racist ideas” at Collingwood were “an extension of Australia”.
“We know Australia as a nation has a history of racist policies which create the infrastructure for racist ideas,” he said.
“When I got into the football club at Collingwood in 2004, it had not updated its definitions of racism. It had not continued on that journey and found ways to prevent the racial discrimination that I faced.
“Its inaction was actually a racist policy. It was a lack of implementation of anti-racism policy.
“What would anti-racism policies look like? It would look like more stringent punishment around cases of racial discrimination, around nicknames, around jokes.”
Lumumba said players received yearly education sessions about racism from AFL staff, but “the whole discourse was about not being racist”.
“It wasn’t about being anti-racist,” he said.
Lumumba brushes off Collingwood advances
On Tuesday, Collingwood said in a statement that its club integrity committee would “search for the truth in the matters raised”.
“This is a serious issue. As a board we have come together and unanimously agreed we need to take action. The integrity committee has started to map a way forward,” director Jodie Sizer said.
“We would like to talk with and listen to Heritier because his truth is a critical part of this.”
But Lumumba declared that he was “insulted” by Collingwood’s plan to run its own investigation into the racism allegations and would not participate.
He said he had already detailed his account of events to club staff, board members, other players, AFL psychologists and in a 2017 documentary film.
“I have no desire to convince Collingwood of a truth that they already know,” he wrote on Twitter.
Lumumba, who is of Congolese-Brazilian heritage and arrived in Australia aged 3, has been backed by ex-teammates Brent Macaffer and Chris Dawes.
While the alleged comments occurred within the club, Lumumba said he was also approached by Collingwood’s American forward Seamus McNamara who “knew it wasn’t acceptable”.
“He knew it was racism. He spoke to me on a number of occasions about it,” Lumumba said.
The 33-year-old now lives in Los Angeles, where he has protested against police brutality in recent weeks.
“I’m a black man in a world that doesn’t respect my humanity,” Lumumba said.
“There’s a critical mass of people all around the world that are on the streets demanding that racist institutions be held to account and that they do not investigate themselves.
“I don’t see this as: ‘poor me, I feel sorry for myself’.
“This is about something much greater, something that affects so many unfortunate Australians out there.”