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Australia’s biggest sports team – the Collingwood Football Club – is at the centre of scandal after a report was published this week finding the club guilty of “systemic racism”.

It’s a shot across the bow for any organisation that pays mere lip service to its workplace diversity & inclusion programme – half hearted measures are no longer good enough in the modern era.

The issue came to a head after star Australian Rules footballer Héritier Lumumba (pictured above right) brought legal action against the club. He endured 10 years of racist taunts – being called nicknames like “chimp” and “slave” by team-mates – during his10-year career as a player at the club.

“Too often the reaction (at the club) was defensive rather than proactive and this aggravated, rather than mitigated, the impact of that racism on the people who experienced it,” the report, entitled Do Better, found.

In response to the report’s findings the president of the team, Eddie McGuire (above left) bizarrely said that the findings were an “historic and proud day for the club” – as if the report findings somehow exonerated the club, which clearly they had not. McGuire later apologised and retracted the remarks.

“The report confirms and supports all the systemic critiques I have been making about Collingwood for over seven years, in terms of them lacking even the most basic framework for addressing racism at the club,” Lumumba said, adding that the report vindicated his claims.

“My complaints were never dealt with in good faith, but rather as a PR problem that needed to be shut down and covered up – something the report actually confirms in terms of the club’s general approach to racism,” he added.

Highly respected Australian journalist, Barrie Cassidy, also weighed into the controversy, pointing out that the sports club couldn’t rebuild its reputation or actions “from a position of denial”.

“There is a difference anyway between diversity and inclusion. You can bring different cultures to the club, but without true inclusion, there will be no cultural safety and equality,” Cassidy wrote in an opinion piece for The Age newspaper.

It’s true of workplaces too.

Image courtesy Yahoo

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