Entertainment

AFL player labels The Project racist after interview

Ex-Collingwood AFL player Heritier Lumumba held back tears on The Project describing the tag he carried around at the club. Picture: The Project/Channel 10
Ex-Collingwood AFL player Heritier Lumumba held back tears on The Project describing the tag he carried around at the club. Picture: The Project/Channel 10

A FORMER AFL player who was recently interviewed on The Project has hit out at host Waleed Aly and his fellow panellists, accusing them of demonstrating "white supremacy".

Heritier Lumumba was close to tears during the emotional interview broadcast last Monday, in which he shared his personal experience of racism while playing for one of the AFL's biggest clubs.

The former Collingwood player, who was known in the league as Harry O'Brien, described the team as a "boys' club for racist and sexist jokes". Aly sat down with Lumumba to talk about his allegations in a one-on-one, prerecorded interview.

Today, in a lengthy blog post on his website, the 2010 premiership player opened up about a side of the interview he claims the audience didn't see.

Lumumba claimed he was subjected to "persistent victim blaming" during the interview, and suggested Aly hadn't stuck up for him as he had done for fellow TV presenter Sonia Kruger when she was embroiled in a racism scandal.

Lumumba began his blog post with praise for Aly, saying he appreciated the "profound impact" the Gold Logie winner's presence in Australian media had, but he soon ran out of compliments.

"I made the error of going into the interview with the preconceived idea that we would both see eye-to-eye on the basic truths of racism/white supremacy," Lumumba wrote.

"It is now very clear to me that he and I have fundamental differences in our understanding of what racism/white supremacy is, and how it should be effectively dealt with."

Raising Aly's past commentary on race issues, Lumumba took issue with the way the popular presenter responded to the death of Muhammad Ali - saying the boxing legend celebrated "black supremacy" - and his response to To day Extra presenter Sonia Kruger's suggestion that Australia should ban Muslim immigration.

Lumumba said he disagreed with how Aly responded to the pile-on that followed Kruger's comments by "pleading for the outrage towards her comments to stop" and saying she was suffering from "horrendous personal attacks".

He lamented the The Project host's "many missed opportunities" to "publicly emphasise the need for the receivers of racist/white supremacist attacks to be treated with an equitable amount of love, care, and understanding that he urges the public to have of people who perpetuate 'white supremacist' thought".

Lumumba said he "winced at Aly's silence" while he claimed his co-host Peter Helliar "attempted to discredit" the professional's experience of direct racism.

Hellier specifically asked for "more detail" about the accusations of racism. "Take us into your experience," Hellier said. "Because if you don't do that them you're smearing an entire club."

Lumumba said Hellier went too far.

"Despite having dedicated six years to making a documentary about the direct racism that I faced during my football career, Helliar, a 42-year-old 'white' man, said that I needed to provide more details of my experience in order for him to believe me," he said.

The Collingwood player said he had been "horrified" by Aly's approach.

"Aly was well aware that there were five players (including myself), who had simultaneously gone on record to highlight the same culture, within the Australian Football League (AFL), that is indifferent to various manifestations of racism," he wrote.

"I have also been the target of 'horrendous personal attacks' from members of Australian society - some even calling for me to be lynched - simply for sharing my experiences."

Lumumba accused Aly of displaying "silence and indifference to 'black' pain", and said his silence "speaks volumes when juxtaposed with his preparedness to validate and express support for Sonia Kruger's 'white' pain".

"Aly's indifference to 'black' pain perpetuates the dehumanisation of 'black' bodies that is evident in; the legacy of white supremacy in the colonisation and enslavement throughout the world; and the legacy of oppression from the Trans-Arabic slave trade," he said.

Lumumba asserted "Waleed and his team" were clearly indifferent to "black pain", and went so far as to accuse the team of demonstrating "white supremacy".

"Aly's team at The Project is complicit in contributing to the growing 'inertia' of racist vitriol that 'spins like the Gravitron' that pervades Australian society. I will never forget what happened last year, when The Project targeted my young and talented brother, Ror Akot, by subjecting him to a viciously disgusting and downright degrading use of his image, to portray the so-called 'Apex Gang'," he wrote.

"The fact is, that Aly's team at The Project were prepared to prioritise their agenda to sensationalise 'African Australian' youth delinquency, while simultaneously inflicting pain - that Waleed and his team are clearly indifferent to - by destroying an innocent ('black') person's image. That is a perfect example of 'White supremacy'."

The reason for Lumumba's appearance on The Project was to promote a documentary, Fair Game, in which he lifted the lid on what he said was an underbelly of racism at Collingwood.

Through tears, he claimed unnamed teammates had called him "chimp" and said his stand against the club's president Eddie McGuire's 2013 racist radio joke towards Adam Goodes ultimately led to his departure from the club.
Lumumba's claims about his mistreatment at Collingwood have been disputed by the club, and he was challenged on this by Aly during pair's sit-down interview.

When pressed by Aly on why no one associated with the club would support his claim, he said he would be surprised "if a majority of the players weren't aware of the racist jokes or the nickname".

"You have to understand the situation players are in … to speak out against a club that in many ways you feel as though you owe … it's a very difficult thing to do".

But Lumumba clearly felt there was more to say, and demonstrated this in the 2000 word article he published on his website today.

News.com.au has sought comment on the piece from Network Ten.

Topics:  editors picks racism the project

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