COLLINGWOOD Football Club has rejected claims of a homophobic culture in the club after a second incident involving alleged homophobic slurs and defender Heritier Lumumba may result in the premiership player’s departure.
Lumumba recently criticised the club over allegedly homophobic graffiti on a poster in the players’ rooms, where “off to the Mardi Gras boys?” had been written on an image of players Scott Pendlebury and Dayne Beams, Fairfax Media reports.
Collingwood Football Club told the Star Observer the club’s record on homophobia speaks for itself.
“I think the club’s record is fairly well known, and the club would strongly contest any suggestion that there’s a homophobic streak here,” a spokesperson said.
The club declined to comment on the ongoing discussions with Lumumba, and said they may have more to add once those discussions have concluded.
This is the second time Lumumba has raised issues of homophobia in the club, after a reported disagreement with coach Nathan Buckley last year over a similar issue led to the player taking a short hiatus from the team.
Lumumba — then known as Harry O’Brien — reportedly took issue with the practise of using the nickname “Lez” for teammate Paul Seedsman, apparently in reference to Seedsman’s haircut.
A number of high profile AFL writers criticised Lumumba over his response to the incident, with Herald Sun columnist Mark Robinson arguing the player should “pull his head in”.
Collingwood’s official LGBTI supporters group Pink Magpies told the Star Observer they supported Lumumba’s right to assert his stongly-held sense of justice, a value shared by the group, but also supported the club’s position against homophobia.
Secretary Ian Bell said he remained confident the sensitivity of the issue was understood by club officials.
“In our experience the Collingwood Football Club comprehends and will embrace the need for sensitivity around issues relating to homophobia in the club,” he said.
The Pink Magpies are the oldest and one of only two official LGBTI supporters groups in the AFL, and are known to have the public and private support of Collingwood president Eddie McGuire.
Collingwood’s discussions with Lumumba around his future in the club are ongoing, and both teammates and officials have expressed public support for the player despite the difficult relationship.
Lumumba also made headlines last year for publicly criticising McGuire after he compared Aboriginal AFL player and now Australian of the Year Adam Goodes to a monkey live on radio.