Twirling towards freedom

Dig Up, Eddie!

It was immediately apparent that nobody was going to buy that the four on-air sentences in which Eddie McGuire racially vilified Adam Goodes on Wednesday morning were, as McGuire claimed, “a slip of the tongue.” Instead of releasing a considered statement and attempting to minimise the damage, bafflingly, the Collingwood president just kept on talking, explaining that he’s only racist when he’s tired.

As McGuire kept trying to talk his way out of the unfortunate situation, I could only think of the classic Simpsons episode wherein, finding themselves at the bottom of a very large hole, Chief Wiggum implores Homer to “Dig up, stupid.” It wasn’t only McGuire who was digging the wrong way, though. The media instantaneously dubbed McGuire’s slippery sentences “a gaffe,” whereas the 13-year-old girl who called Goodes an ape during last Friday’s match between the Magpies and the Swans was decried to be “racist.” Surely the best test of somebody being racist, whether they be a teenager or a club president who has a prior reputation for supporting indigenous equality, is if they make racist remarks? 

The media too, seemed unsure how to properly report the incident. An AAP article that appeared yesterday in The Australian, The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph noted that Collingwood player Harry O’Brien, who spoke out against McGuire, “is one of the club’s most highly respected black players.” The article was amended a few hours after it started doing the rounds on Twitter, the word ‘black’ deleted.

Meanwhile, still talking, McGuire came out to apologise to Goodes – sort of – saying that, "I hope that you guys know that it wasn't what I meant to say, and it wasn't even what I was thinking.” McGuire also said that he would happily “have a spell” from his roles in the media and was willing to stand aside as Collingwood club president, but had by now spoken about it so much that he’d apparently already forgotten what he’d said earlier in the day. “People don’t resign because they make a slip of the tongue,” McGuire said. “It’s as simple as that. If I stood up because I was racially vilifying somebody, not only should I be resigning, I should be sacked.”

It’s difficult to figure out what exactly McGuire is trying to say. That he’s happy to be sacked, but won’t resign? That if he was racially vilifying somebody he should be sacked, but he wasn’t because it was just a slip of the tongue so he shouldn’t be sacked? It’s possible that McGuire will keep throwing excuses around for the next week, hoping to find one that fits, and as soon as the next sporting scandal is reported this will all be forgotten. It’s important though, that “I’m not racist, but I am tired” doesn’t become an acceptable excuse. If McGuire, a high profile figure in both media and sport, can successfully bumble his way out of this, what recourse do we have against the sleepy racists down at the local pub? 

Michaela McGuire

Michaela McGuire is a journalist and the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief. Visit her blog, Twirling Towards Freedom.


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