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“I wish I’d done better”: Former Pies coach regrets not standing with Lumumba


Nathan Buckley has expressed his regret over his own and Collingwood’s handling of allegations of racism at the club, put forth by premiership player Héritier Lumumba.

The former Pies player and coach was among several leaders at the club to have dismissed Lumumba’s experience, first made public in the Fair Game documentary in 2017.

Born in Rio de Janeiro to a Brazilian mother and Congolese-Angolan father, Lumumba played 199 games with Collingwood, and won All-Australian honours in the Pies’ 2010 premiership year.

He was celebrated for his social conscience earlier in his career, but when he began to call out the discrimination he experienced and witnessed in football, the narrative turned.

Lumumba’s mental health was questioned, which he identified in 2017 as “deflect(ing) attention away from the underlying problem by evoking the 'crazy black' stereotype.”

The character assassination coinciding with the expectation of solidarity weighed the then 27-year-old down, and he was traded to Melbourne at the end of the 2014 season.

His experience has since been corroborated by several former teammates, and led to Collingwood commissioning what has become known as the Do Better Report into systemic racism at the club.

Sitting around the campfire on reality television program I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, Buckley expressed his regret at not having stood with Lumumba at the time.

“I wish I’d done better,” Buckley lamented.

“I wish I’d done better to help him feel more supported when I was a player, to make him feel supported when I was a coach.

“I wish we’d done more when he spoke against the president… I definitely wish that when he came forward, we were able to listen.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot through it.”

Buckley said the only way he can reconcile his defensiveness in the wake of Lumumba’s stand was the feeling the young defender was being “militant.”

When comedian Cal Wilson replied “he had to be militant to be heard,” Buckley agreed.

“I’ve understood that more and more.”

Buckley said he hasn’t spoken to Lumumba in nearly eight years; they last spoke in the premiership defender’s final season with Collingwood.

“I sent him an email but I didn’t get anything back,” Buckley revealed.

“It was (an apology), and it was also ‘I need to understand this more, and specifically what could I have done better, what more did you need from me.’

“‘I want to have this conversation with you so you can educate me more about your experience.’”

Buckley continued to confide in Wilson, who has been seen on Australian television programs such as Have You Been Paying Attention, Thank God You’re Here, and Spicks and Specks.

“You were also asking him to do more work,” she pointed out.

“Like you’re going ‘can you educate me? You know how you’ve spoken up and done this really exhausting, painful thing, can you do more of that for me?’”

“Your intention might have been ‘I want to listen to you now,’ for him it may be ‘oh you’re just asking me to repeat myself.’

Buckley agreed “absolutely.”

“I’m hoping that at some point Héritier and I do have a conversation,” he shared.

“What I want to be able to relate to him, whether it’s directly with my words or actions or even an intent, is that I actually believe in the path that he is on, and what he is fighting for.”


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