Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has blamed “heavy-duty painkillers, antibiotics and steroids” which he was taking to treat a knee infection for his 2013 racial slur against former Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes in an interview with GQ magazine.
McGuire, most recently in trouble for on-air comments about Age AFL journalist Caroline Wilson in which he said he’d pay to have her held under water, suggested on radio in 2013 that Goodes could star in King Kong the musical, just weeks after the player had pointed out a teenage Collingwood supporter in the crowd who called him an ape.
McGuire told GQ that he still lies awake over his Adam Goodes comment.
“Does it still rankle with me to this day? Absolutely. It burns me to the core that what I said would add any level of pain to Adam or the Indigenous community,” he says.
Three years later, McGuire’s revealed that he was “on massive painkillers and crutches” and “should have stayed in bed that day”, after “hosting a function raising $300,000 for Indigenous scholarships” the night before.
“Look, I’m pure of heart on this issue and I stand firmly for equality and against bigotry of any form – that’s why I believe in equality of marriage, because to not do so is to believe in discrimination,” he says.
McGuire says he was trying to be ironic and thinking about the Don Lane Show – a popular 1970s TV variety hosted by the American – when Bert Newton would come out “in a gorilla suit with a Swans jumper on”.
“That was what was in my mind – and what came out wasn’t what was in my mind. I couldn’t have apologised any more – but I was disappointed some people were able to use the aftermath in thinking it was unfair my way,” he says.
“So you cop your whack and you hope that people go, ‘Yeah, based on everything that’s happened over 51 years of his life, he probably stands with Adam Goodes and not against him’.”
The interview does not tackle the Wilson incident – it’s not known when McGuire spoke to GQ – but it does go back to 2006 and his time as Nine Network CEO when he was accused of asking when the station would “bone” Today host Jessica Rowe.
McGuire continues to maintain he never said it, and now claims he may have said “burned”.
“I checked myself, as it was a word that was bandied about – but it was a Sydney term and it was one that Mark Llewellyn, and others, used quite regularly. I use the term ‘burn’,” he says.
McGuire adds “it was a rhetorical question put to the director of news as to what he was going to do to save Jessica Rowe as she was getting pounded [in the press]. And I refute that I said ‘boned’ – I may have said ‘burned’. “
He says a confidentially agreement has stopped him discussing the issue and “I’ve held true, and that extends to not bagging other people”.
He calls Rowe a “drive-by victim in all of this – she didn’t deserve any of it, and I feel deeply about that”.
Asked about whether The Footy Show and presenter, Sam Newman, who three weeks ago sprang to McGuire’s defence, but only exacerbated the situation, leading to inquiries from the watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority, had had their day, McGuire said it “breaks my heart sometimes that he hasn’t really been allowed to show himself on TV in a way that he can”
“[Newman] has a great capacity to cut through the political correctness – sometimes he goes too far, but generally he has an opinion and it’s based on scholarship. He’s not a dial-a-quote; he thinks deeply about these things and has his position on it. I just hope it’s not too late for him to do some other things – for people to see another side, or an even better side, of Sam,” McGuire says.
Asked if he’s been ruthless to get ahead, McGuire says: “Quite possibly, but I don’t think I am – I go down the empathy and respect path. That doesn’t mean I’m not frightened to mete out tough love at times but, if I err, it’s on giving people more chances, and that’s not a failing.”
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