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The Age
Australian Rules

Australian sports chief apologises for joking about 'drowning' this journalist

He described her as a “black widow”, and his comments have caused a kerfuffle in Australia.

POWERFUL AUSTRALIAN RULES figure Eddie McGuire has apologised for joking about drowning a woman journalist, with the male-dominated sport’s chief admitting “we still have a long way to go”.

McGuire, president of popular club Collingwood, made the remarks about The Age’s chief AFL writer Caroline Wilson while talking about a charity fundraiser in which personalities plunge into a freezing pool.

During a radio show, McGuire said he would pay Aus$20,000 to see Wilson slide into the water, adding “if she stays under”, he would lift it to $50,000, prompting one of the panel to offer to “hold her under”.

Amid raucous laughter, McGuire went on to criticise Wilson, saying:

She’s like the black widow. She just sucks you in and gets you and you start talking to her and then bang! She gets you.

He backtracked today after the AFL warned his language could be seen as supporting violence against women.

“I apologise and retract them in the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve, which is to look after women and children in our community,” he told commercial radio station Triple M.

“Anything at all that can be perceived to promulgate or support, even in a light-hearted manner, domestic violence is unacceptable.”

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said he had spoken to McGuire, and while he did not ask him to stand down, he said the sport, which will start a women’s league in 2017, still had a long way to go.

“We can’t say that we as an industry have a commitment to making change if we don’t step up and call it out. Words and jokes have incredible power,” he told a media conference in Melbourne.

‘Casual violent banter’

McLachlan praised Wilson as a role model who had broken down barriers for women journalists.

“The fact that the comments were made on radio a week ago and were not called out is an indictment on everyone working in football,” he said.

That we can still argue they were done in jest shows a lack of understanding of this issue.

Wilson, who recently penned a column suggesting McGuire come up with a succession plan for the Collingwood presidency, said the words had taken her back to days past when such comments would sink without trace.

caroline wilson The Age The Age

But she said:

To let his so-called jokey banter get through without trying to explain why language like McGuire’s is so wrong would be letting down true victims of violence.

It was disappointing that the default position of McGuire and colleagues “was casual violent banter against an individual they do not like,” she wrote in The Age.

Wilson likened the remarks to casual racism, saying they reminded her of McGuire’s comments in 2013 when he suggested star Aboriginal player Adam Goodes be used to promote a King Kong musical.

Those remarks sparked widespread condemnation as the Sydney Swans’ player had recently been racially abused as an “ape”.

- © AFP, 2016

Opinion: The victim impact statement I never got to make>

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