No Eddie, it wasn’t just some ‘banter’

Once again, Collingwood president and media commentator Eddie McGuire is making news for all the wrong reasons. It’s not the first time, but it certainly needs to be the last.

Prior to the Queen’s Birthday clash, the Collingwood President told Triple M journalist Caroline Wilson should have a “one-person slide” at next year’s Freeze MND event.

“I’ll put in ten grand straight away, make it 20,” McGuire said. “And if she stays under, 50. What do you think guys?”

The laughing and agreement from fellow commentators, James Brayshaw and Danny Frawley, at the apparent ‘joke’ didn’t help the situation.

You see, there is nothing funny in this scenario. There is no humour in wanting a woman, or any person for that matter, to drown.

Certain people have called it a “joke” and McGuire himself even said it was meant as “banter”.

But these comments definitely surpassed any level of humour. Instead, this aggressive language had only one purpose – to bully and hurt Wilson.

Caroline Wilson is certainly a polarising figure in the AFL. She doesn’t hold back and her strong opinions often leave people disgruntled.

But she is a journalist. It is her primary job to critique and question all that is happening in the game.

You don’t have to agree with Wilson and you don’t even have to like her. But there are better ways to express your disagreement.

The comments made by McGuire and co. are only perpetuating a culture of violence against women in Australia. The comments shouldn’t hide behind the façade of a joke.

Anti-domestic violence campaigner, and former Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty articulated it perfectly.

“It wasn’t meant to be harmful but that’s the very point of being aware of the language you’re using, the role modelling that you have in a [high]-profile position, what you stand for and your behaviour,” Rosie Batty said. “And Eddie’s just as accountable as everybody else.”

While it was reported on Sunday that McGuire was not going to apologise for his comments, Monday saw a see-sawing turn of events.

The Collingwood President’s first response was during his usual breakfast spot on Triple M.

“[I’m] really disappointed that these comments have led to these feelings from people,” McGuire said. “I apologise and retract them in the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve, which is to look after women and children in our community.”

This half-hearted ‘apology’, if you can even call it that, lacked sincerity and ownership. It was a “sorry-you’re-upset-but-I-haven’t-actually-done-anything-wrong” apology.

But after Danny Frawley and James Brayshaw both owned up sincerely throughout the course of the day, McGuire also changed his tune.

In a video statement released on the Collingwood website, McGuire finally took ownership of the situation.

“Over the last 24 hours, I’ve seen the impact of the comments on [Wilson],” McGuire said. “No person should ever feel uneasy or threatened in football’s family. And for that I am truly sorry and I apologise unreservedly to Caroline for putting her in that position.”

But it seemed that McGuire’s differing stances removed any sort of sincerity from his apology. Public opinion and perception has forced his hand.

Eddie McGuire has been a great president of the Collingwood football club. He has also done some great things for the AFL and the wider community in general.

But his brash and insensitive comments need to stop.

The AFL is meant to be an inclusive environment for people of all genders, races, and sexualities.

But the words and actions of last week, only proves that we still have a long way to go.

(First published on The Roar on June 21st 2016)

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