For the longest time, former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire represented — sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly — many of the most distasteful parts of Australian public life.
Ubiquitous for reasons no one could quite understand and seemingly unfirable, he was a similar phenomenon to MP Craig Kelly: by processes invisible and unfathomable to most people, certain blokes are able to get into seats of power and stay there no matter what they do or say.
Finally, after the scathing “Do Better” report depicting the systemic racism at Collingwood was leaked, McGuire resigned. But appropriately enough it was for precisely the wrong reasons.
He said his resignation was on account of people “latching on” to his assertion that the leaking of the report was a “proud and historic day” for the club, thus making him “a lightning rod for vitriol”. It was the equivalent of Al Capone turning himself in to the tax office.
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McGuire was not a well-intentioned gaffe-o-tron taken suddenly by a pile-on over clumsy language. Instead, over the years he has habitually forced us to ask what a high-profile man in the Australian media has to do to get himself fired.
Comparing Adam Goodes to “King Kong” and an “ape” after he was racially vilified by a Collingwood fan? That certainly won’t. He didn’t consider standing down and faced no punishment from the league.
Again his apology for the Goodes comment was illustrative of his ability to discern any responsibility for his actions: “That’s what was on my mind. It was just something that just came out. It was simply a slip of the tongue mistake that I didn’t even realise I said at the time.”
McGuire was a bit “zoned out” that day, he said.
McGuire was also briefly the CEO of Nine, during which time he fired a lot of people and gave Crikey one of its big scoops. An affidavit from former head of news and current affairs Mark Llewellyn ended up with us, alleging among other things that McGuire had suggested presenter Jessica Rowe be “boned” (as in fired).
Hell, even the allegations he oversaw years of systemic racism at Collingwood isn’t a firing offence as far as the Nine network is concerned — who stood by McGuire — or for that matter, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews. The premier briefly ceased telling us how progressive he is to defend McGuire before his resignation.
As Tony Wright notes in The Age, McGuire has long had the ability to “insert himself like a master key into the doors that were likely to give him access to the real centres of Victorian power”.
But his resignation is unlikely to mean he’ll be locked out of those rooms.