I haven’t been paying attention to all the details of who said what about Adam Goodes since the on-field incident last week, but I’m pleasantly surprised to see a substantive discussion of the issue as part of ABC-Breakfast’s reporting, very pleasantly surprised that the AFL has stepped up and cited Eddie Everywhere for racial vilification, and that he’s about to meet the Collingwood board to discuss whether he should resign as club president.
I’m even more pleasantly surprised to see that McGuire has moved beyond his initial denial that he had racially vilified Goodes because of his non-malicious intent (just a gaffe), to acknowledging that vilification occurs regardless of intent and offering a proper apology to Goodes in private, to club supporters via email and to the public generally in print and on air.
In his email, McGuire offered apologies “particularly to our indigenous and ethnic supporter groups. Regardless of my intentions, I acknowledge that the comments referring to Adam were offensive and for that I am truly sorry. It was thoughtless but absolutely said without malice”.
I don’t have a direct quote from a transcript, but there was a clip of McGuire on TV where he made a point of explaining on mass media his understanding that how the racist remark slipped out without him even realising in the moment that he was indeed uttering a racist remark is precisely part of the problem – that the hurt inflicted remains no matter how “offhand”, “thoughtless” or “a simple mistake” the utterance may have been or how non-racist the utterer means/wants to be. His clear commitment to communicating that point (which in my experience is a difficult one to convey persuasively when challenging someone on a marginalising remark/slur) has been a tremendously pleasant surprise.
McGuire has a long history of blurting offensive remarks, which quite a few helpful folks have listed around the web in the last few days . Perhaps that long history of criticism for those blurts has finally taught him what a proper apology needs to be. Compare and contrast the typical gutless not-pology from Triple M on whose football program McGuire made the vilifying remark (emphasis added):
Triple M acknowledged McGuire’s comments could have been interpreted as racist and apologised to any listeners who were offended.
They’ve carefully avoided putting an “if” in there, but it’s hardly whole-hearted, is it? FFS Triple M, c’mon: even Eddie McGuire knows how to do it properly!
Good on Goodes for standing up to unacceptable racial vilification on the field in the first place, and good on fellow player Harry O’Brien for standing up further in response to McGuire’s on-air extension of that vilification. This is a long overdue national conversation that we need to be having.
P.S. Peter Fitzsimon’s op-ed on the original Goodes incident is an important contribution to the discussion on racism too. Especially since there’s a bunch of clots trying to use the “sticks and stones” cliche to tell all the bleeding hearts why they should just STFU.