Former Collingwood player Leon Davis: ‘We don’t want our kids to have to go through the bullshit’ | Sport

19 February 2021 - 7:17 pm

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Former Collingwood player Leon Davis: ‘We don’t want our kids to have to go through the bullshit’ | Sport

For the previous few weeks, arrogant Balardong Whadjuk man Leon Davis – who donned the Collingwood black and white for 11 years – has been ready for a convene from the membership.

He waited as the particulars of the “execute Higher” record into racism at the membership, carried out by notable Prof Larissa Behrendt and Prof Lindon Coombes, was handed to the Collingwood board. He waited as the record was leaked on the entrance web page of the Herald Solar, and as outrage grew over its findings that there was systemic racism ingrained in the membership.

He waited as Collingwood held a press convention at which the then president, Eddie McGuire, claimed the membership was not “racist or mean-spirited” and mentioned: “We’re doing one thing. We referred to as issues out six years in the past … in reality 22 years in the past, once we began on this crusade.”

He waited as his former teammate and buddy Héritier Lumumba – who had spent a decade being racially vilified at the membership, then was ostracised for talking out – continued his stout resistance by calling out the rhetoric and pushing for change.

He’s quiet ready, plane after McGuire’s forbearance – not only for a convene from the membership, however for extra details about what comes subsequent. Davis says the loom of racism at Collingwood, and in wider society, is mighty greater than one particular person.

“Everyone seems to be lacking the level,” Davis tells Guardian Australia. “Eddie stepped down, however there’s a common emotion that it’s all carried out and dusted.”

“I don’t take any enjoyment from Eddie stepping down. The problems have not gone away. It quiet continues, and it’ll proceed for a very long time till the undoubted historical past is understood and everybody is healthier educated about us First Nations individuals. We get up daily with the identical points and the identical battle and nothing has modified for us. I’m quiet very upset and handsome damage.”

Davis takes a mark for Collingwood in a 2011 game against the Adelaide Crows at Etihad Stadium

Davis takes a token for Collingwood in a 2011 sport in opposition to the Adelaide Crows at Etihad Stadium. {Photograph}: Martin Philbey/AAP

The occasions that led to McGuire’s forbearance are private for Davis. Collingwood’s failure to ration with racism, its refusal to acknowledge it, or to heal the previous, have pressured Davis to confront his avow experiences of racism at the membership. The proceedings of the final few weeks have resurfaced that trauma. He says it has harmful a lot of the good recollections of taking part in for a membership that he quiet loves.

For greater than 11 years on the bailiwick as one in all Collingwood’s most high-profile gamers, Davis says he endured many racist incidents, which had been by no means appropriately handled by administration or the board. They started inside a couple of months of becoming a member of the membership, when he was quiet an adolescent.

In 1999 Davis was a fresh recruit to Collingwood. He had been drafted as an 18-year-old from his dwelling city of Northam in Western Australia, the place he had grown up as sever of a stout household and group. His mother and father had instilled in him power and satisfaction in his id. He hadn’t wished to depart them however the occasion to toy at Collingwood – his mum’s favorite crew – was the realisation of a long-held dream to toy in the AFL. He was wrathful, although the membership’s racist previous hung over it.

“My closest mates and a few household began to query it,” Davis says. “They’d say, ‘Oh, you realize they have acquired a advocate historical past of racism,’ or, ‘They’re a racist membership. What are you going there for?’

“However I at all times wished to toy footy, and that was my mindset. And you realize I had two mother and father who at all times raised us privilege and made positive that we knew and had the instruments to manipulate any status that we got here up in opposition to.”

Not solely that, Davis already knew about racism intimately, as First Nations kids do, rising up in a society predicated on their erasure. Racism was not only a downside in soccer, he says: he already knew how to recognise it in the brutality of police and the training system. He had recognized it intimately from the tales of his mother and father and his grandparents.

However he says he didn’t anticipate it at his fresh office, or so quickly, and couldn’t have anticipated how it might make him really feel.

About six months after arriving at Collingwood, Davis create a player’s silhouette that had been left by his locker, which had been pre-filled out by a few of his teammates.

“It was a player silhouette we get yearly, and you set down a miniature bit about your self,” he says. “Your likes and dislikes and all that. I rocked up to my locker and on prime of my bag was my player silhouette which had already been stuffed out by a handful of gamers … it was stuffed out with plenty of racist stereotypes. Actually racist undertones of stereotypes of our individuals. It was handsome damning.”

Davis was the solely First Nations player there.

“I wasn’t a longtime player, I used to be a really youthful and really wrathful 18-year-old that was leaping out of my pores and skin to toy AFL and try to get together with everybody and make mates. I used to be homesick. I used to be getting all these warnings from household and mates about Collingwood being a racist membership and fast-forward to me being wrathful and making an attempt to flick that apart. After which I go to the membership and commence coaching … for that to befall … it took rather a lot for me to remain there.”

Davis was embarrassed; his first response was to flee from the locker elbowroom.

Leon Davis

‘I felt love it was myself up in opposition to an enormous powerhouse of a number of individuals, an business, a nation.’ {Photograph}: Robyn Sharrock/The Guardian

“I used to be the queer one out of the group. In the elbowroom I simply felt actual miniature … I went dwelling and my youthful brother seen the silhouette. I wasn’t positive how to react. I used to be a bit torn about what to do with it and confused. execute I deliver it out and rock the boat and get individuals in ail, or is it going to cease me from taking part in footy? Will it jeopardise me staying there and alive my dream? All this stuff had been going through my intellect.

“I simply took it dwelling, went dwelling and advised my brother and he mentioned, ‘That is bullshit.’ He acquired furious and that’s a regular response for me and my two brothers each time we confronted that stuff rising up.

“When my mother and father create out about it, we had been packing our baggage that night time. I didn’t have a say in it. Mum and Dad mentioned love, ‘We’ve put up with this shit all our lives. We’re not placing up with it, that’s for positive.’”

However Davis wished to toy soccer – it was his lifelong dream. And so, as a substitute, they referred to as a gathering.

“It acquired sorted out to a inescapable extent, nevertheless it wasn’t handled the privilege route for positive. Advocate then – it’s related now – individuals didn’t have the instruments to ration with these points.”

Davis says there have been no repercussions for the gamers interested however he suffered penalties. He felt ostracised and lonely.

“It was the aftermath that most likely affected me the most,” he says. “As a result of then it went to being outcast and never in the in-crowd and discovering my route on my avow, that kindly of stuff which was actually troublesome. It didn’t final endlessly, nevertheless it was one thing that was troublesome.

“It’s a soccer membership mentality. You’re all on a crew and also you’re conjectural to have everybody’s advocate. After that [incident] it modified dramatically, the place it was difficult to breathe there.

“After which plenty of issues occurred and I didn’t inform my mum and pop as a result of I felt it might reason the identical repercussions for myself. I wasn’t in the group love I used to breathe … sitting round the desk with the boys and being interested … months after that, as a result of I’d been the one who had gone to the membership and systematize of dobbed on them.

“It was actually difficult for me to breathe there, not solely as an 18-year-old child however being a First Nations man, the place there wasn’t any judgement of what I used to be going through.”

These early experiences of not emotion understood, of not believing the membership had handled it correctly, influenced Davis’ ways in opposition to racism.

When it occurred once more, Davis would ration with it one-on-one, or he would attempt to train individuals himself. He says he developed a fame in the membership of not standing for it. Simply love his buddy Lumumba, who endured 10 years of racist nicknames, Davis employed ways of survival.

“I’m not popping out to stick it to Collingwood or get individuals in ail. I’m popping out to say this occurred, that is what continues to befall. And we want higher. We want our kids to have it higher. We don’t want our kids to have to go through the bullshit we did and our ancestors did.

“I can utterly narrate to Héritier and what he did to survive since you go into survival fashion. And I did. I felt love it was myself up in opposition to an enormous powerhouse of a number of individuals, an business, a nation. A number of occasions when racist incidents have occurred, that’s what it’s. We’re up in opposition to a nation.”

That’s why Davis is talking out now. When he heard McGuire at the press convention say this was “22 years in the past”, he thought, “Effectively, that was me. That incident with me occurred precisely round that point.”

It’s too why Davis has been ready for a convene from Collingwood, simply as he waited for greater than a decade whereas taking part in at Collingwood for these points to breathe rectified. The record is a vindication for him, and all different gamers who endured racism inside its partitions, however it’s a wider story of the racism in Australia.

“It’s the identical with our historical past and Australian historical past. What has occurred to our individuals from settlement that hasn’t been handled, that hasn’t been rectified. We haven’t had our cultural therapeutic. On a lesser scale with Collingwood, that hasn’t been rectified.

“Till you pickle what occurred with the previous and also you make privilege this setting of systemic racism, this ignorance, this white privilege, I don’t cerebrate it’s going to change. With the overview, you may’t put issues in place stirring ahead for those who can’t ration with the previous.”

Now, when Davis goes advocate to the membership, it’s what dominates his recollections. Its response to the record has solely heightened that, leaving him “upset, damage and disheartened”.

“It has been exhausting to ration with the damage and frustration not just for me however too the route it had impacted on my household, mates and group. I consider that the membership’s response stemmed from the systemic racism imposed from the nation’s management and white privilege.

“When Aboriginal individuals behold missed alternatives to display empathy and possession it opens up the transgenerational trauma wounds that we endure.”

Till issues change at the membership, he says he wouldn’t want the identical life for his kids. He has three sons and two daughters.

“Certainly one of my sons energy want to toy footy, however until there’s drastic change, I wouldn’t matter them to going there with out the privilege issues being in place.

“That’s why I want to talk out now: to inform my story, to put issues in place for the future for not simply my sons, however for everybody that aspires to toy soccer.”

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