Hawthorn CEO speaks out on AFL club’s bombshell racism allegations, says external review makes for ‘hard reading’ and is ‘heartbreaking’
Hawthorn Football Club has pledged to “co-operate fully” with the AFL’s investigation into the “worrying” allegations of racism at the club.
Hawthorn said it hired outside consultants earlier this year to hear from current and former First Nations players and staff about their experiences at the club.
The club this month received a report into the matter – details of which surfaced in the media on Wednesday – prompting Hawthorn CEO Justin Reeves to give a press conference later today in response to the allegations being aired .
“I’ve read the report…and it’s hard to read. It’s heartbreaking. We said in our statement earlier this morning that these allegations are extremely disturbing,” Mr Reeves said.
“We are deeply disappointed that some of our former players and their families feel this about their experiences at the club.
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“The club will continue to offer its support to those who have been part of this process and their well-being remains our priority.”
Hawthorn immediately forwarded the information to the AFL’s Integrity Unit, as per a recommendation in the report.
“The AFL this afternoon announced an external review which we fully support and will co-operate with. It is entirely appropriate that there is a full investigation into this report,” Mr Reeves said.
Pressed on whether Hawthorn has a ‘cultural problem’, Mr Reeves replied: ‘I think Australia historically has a cultural problem’.
“And I think like all of us, we focus every day on being better and creating a great environment for our club,” he said.
“Based on the report, I’m also confident that currently our players feel culturally safe, but like so many institutions, I think we have to come to terms with our history and our past.
“And we have to act responsibly and we have to cooperate and move forward.”
Mr Reeves said he met one of the current players on Wednesday morning as he sought to provide assurances that the club is a safe space for all.
“We had a really open and frank conversation and he feels culturally safe, but we will continue to challenge that and we will continue to move forward and we will continue to strengthen these programs,” he said.
“As we work through these allegations and the processes the AFL has put in place, we will continue to engage our entire family and stakeholders to ensure that anyone who feels they need support gets that opportunity.
“We will leave no stone unturned in this pursuit.”
According to the damning allegations aired in the external review, young players at the Hawthorn Aboriginal Football Club were separated from their partners and forced to terminate their pregnancies for their careers by senior coaches.
The ABC says there were several incidents involving several Indigenous players, one of whom allegedly made several assassination attempts afterward.
The publication alleges that the club’s senior staff bullied the native players into removing them from their homes or relocating them elsewhere as they were given an ultimatum to choose between family or career.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan told AFL players and loved ones affected by the racism allegations on Wednesday “you have been heard” as he confirmed the league will do its best “to hold you tight.” in her arms”.
Mr McLachlan addressed the allegations at a press conference, where he confirmed the AFL had received Hawthorn’s report and would “fully investigate what was shared”.
“What we have seen today is a difficult, heartbreaking and disturbing read,” he said.
“I acknowledge the pain, anger and grief of the people who shared their experiences and told their stories and all those affected.
“I want to tell the women and partners and players who have shared their stories that our first priority is you, and providing you with the care and support you need.
“You have been heard, and as a supporter and community, we will do our best to hug you in support.”