Two more AFL players have this morning publicly confirmed former AFL star Héritier Lumumba was nicknamed ‘Chimp’ during his time at the Collingwood Football Club, plunging the club and the AFL into an ever-deepening racism scandal which has plagued it since 2017, and which contradicts long-standing claims by former captain, now coach Nathan Buckley, and club president Eddie McGuire.
The story has been broken by SBS’s The Feed program, and can be read here. SBS reports:
“Chris Dawes and Brent Macaffer, have come forward, going on the record for the first time in speaking to The Feed, to support Lumumba’s allegations.
“The nickname ‘the chimp’ and stuff like that which absolutely I remember clearly like that was [his]nickname from whenever I got to the football club in 2006,” Brent Macaffer told The Feed.
Chris Dawes told The Feed, “You mentioned the nickname ‘chimp’. I heard that a couple times.”
Dawes’ and Macaffer’s testimonies take the total number of players who have publicly backed the story – or significant elements of it* – to seven, including Andrew Krakouer, Leon Davis, Chris Egan, Shae McNamara and Lumumba himself.
And yet, captain-coach Nathan Buckley and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire are still both denying they ever having heard Lumumba called ‘Chimp’ during his time at the club.
Macaffer tells SBS he finds it “very difficult” to believe because the nickname was “used just frequently as anyone else’s nickname is around the club”.
Buckley was asked about it directly at a press conference in 2017. His body language speaks volumes.
For his part, McGuire was asked about it last week. He maintains he didn’t know, although he tried to pin the blame on Lumumba himself:
“I never heard it, but I understand that that was something that Héritier was involved in himself. I’m not going to get into the comments on it other than this, Héritier Lumumba was a valued member of the Collingwood Football Club and remains to this day,” McGuire said.
Lumumba played 199 games for Collingwood, winning one premiership and achieving All Australian honours in a career spanning more than a decade. In 2014 he left the club after ongoing clashes with senior management and some players over racism, in particular after calling out club president Eddie McGuire for likening Adam Goodes to King Kong in 2013.
In 2017, Lumumba spoke out publicly about the culture at Collingwood, which he described as “boys’ club for racist and sexist jokes” revealing the nickname and stating he tried unsuccessfully to address the culture with the team’s leadership group.
The response by Collingwood at the time was to suggest Lumumba had ‘mental health issues’, which it used as the basis for refusing to comment further.
It was a tactic that worked, in particular with The Project’s Waleed Aly, and comedian Peter Helliar, both of whom questioned whether Lumumba’s claim he was routinely called ‘Chimp’ by other players was true.
For his part, Lumumba also took aim, writing this lengthy piece entitled ‘White Fragility, White Supremacy, And Waleed Aly’.
And Lumumba is still fighting today – a series of tweets in early June re-ignited this scandal, as the #BlackLivesMatter movement gains momentum around the world. And he was back on Twitter this morning.
New Matilda did extensive reporting on the Lumumba racism scandal in 2017 – you can read that coverage here.
New Matilda is awaiting comment from The Project. And we’ll have more coverage on this story soon.
*The original version of this story incorrectly asserted that seven players had all backed the claim that Lumumba was called Chimp. In fact, the actual number who have confirmed that specific allegation is four. Three other players have backed significant aspects of Lumumba’s claim. The error was made by the author.
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