Lumumba ‘mess’ threatens to engulf Collingwood
Nathan Buckley's character is in the spotlight.
He knows it, but he says he's comfortable with who is and what he stands for.
"You have to stay open minded and open hearted,'' Buckley said Wednesday.
"I am really open minded, I know that I am always wanting to learn, wanting to listen and wanting to improve, for myself, my family and for my friends and the people I represent ... I know that it's a very solid character trait of mine.
"Clearly, character is being questioned in terms of race and I know where I stand in that regard.''
The Collingwood coach is effectively being called a liar by Heritier Lumumba over what Lumumba's claim was the common use of "chimp'' as his nickname during his time at the Magpies under Buckley. Buckley has denied ever hearing it.
On Wednesday, the coach doubled down.
"The only mouth I've heard that nickname out of was Heritier's himself when he told me about it. That's categoric. That's me telling my truth,'' he said.
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Lumumba's former teammate Brent Macaffer added damaging evidence to support Lumumba.
"I've seen that (Buckley) said that he wasn't aware of it. I find it very difficult people at the football club at that time could be unaware that would be his nickname as it was used just frequently as anyone else's nickname is around the club," Macaffer told SBS.
"But that's for (Buckley) to decide if they heard that or not."
This is a mess.
1. Despite a total of six of my teammates now coming forward, Nathan Buckley still thinks that lying about racism is the best way to get through this.— Hériter Lumumba (@iamlumumba) June 24, 2020
At the very least, this issue has the potential to engulf and character assassinate not only
Buckley - if it hasn't already - but also Collingwood and even its president Eddie McGuire who has also denied ever hearing "chimp'' being used to describe Lumumba.
It's a case of they said v Collingwood. At least half a dozen former players versus Buckley, McGuire and Collingwood. What's also intriguing is the AFL's lack of public involvement.
It stands accused of being all guns blazing to stamp out racism, and more recently to supporting the players as they take a knee before each match, but have been quiet on the festering Lumumba situation.
The former dashing defender is unrelenting in his campaign to have Buckley, the Pies and the AFL admit to what he claims was racism in the workplace and a lack of support for him and other indigenous players.
Lumumba has also claimed Buckley accused him of "throwing the president under the bus'' after he stood up against McGuire after McGuire's "King Kong" slur about Adam Goodes in 2013.
On Wednesday, Buckley, who is one of the sport's most respected figures, was asked to answer two questions.
1) Did he say to Lumumba that Lumumba threw McGuire under the bus. Buckley answered: "What's the other question?''
2) Does he stand by his claim he had never heard the use of the nickname "chimp''? He answered: "Yes.''
That's when Buckley referenced hearing it for the first time from Lumumba's mouth.
The avoidance in answering the first question leaves the truth hanging somewhat.
Lumumba, meanwhile, has said he won't speak to the Collingwood integrity unit investigation on this matter, which was announced on Monday, and which leaves one wondering if that investigation was announced because the club knew Macaffer's comments were looming.
Unquestionably, an independent inquiry would extinguish suspicion of a potential white wash.
"Collingwood's suggestion that it will 'investigate' itself after actively denying my story for six years is frankly insulting," Lumumba said today.
"It's difficult to determine how this issue will play out. If there is to be resolution, it has to come from Collingwood firstly. Whether Buckley heard "chimp'' or not, it's abundantly clear Lumumba was subjected to years of racial taunts and jokes at the club. Collingwood needs to acknowledge that."
Clearly, the world is changing and terrible things have happened in the past, and there's nothing wrong in acknowledging that and being accountable for it.
Because that changes behaviour.
And that's worth celebrating.
With a hand on their hearts, and be it from Buckley or McGuire, the Pies needs to say sorry to Lumumba because it's their responsibility.
Collingwood seemingly is inching towards that moment.
Twice today Buckley said the issue would not be "swept under the carpet''. Lumumba has an important role, too.
The effects of racism are largely foreign to white people, so Lumumba, just like Eddie Betts on AFL360 on Tuesday night, need to be listened to.
Still, somehow Lumumba must find within the fortitude to park his rage - and we're not dismissing that rage - to try to heal a wound and in doing so help the world.
An independent inquiry would go a long way to achieving that.
Because right now Lumumba doesn't trust Collingwood and, after what he had dealt with, who can blame him.