McGuire’s version of events is that he simply didn’t see the disabled Banham from the monitor — he didn’t have his glasses on — and spoke about errant coin tossing without having any idea that it was Banham, an academic and ex-journalist who is both well-known in media circles and celebrated as a survivor of a plane crash that deprived her of both legs.
McGuire has been laid low by this blunder, the third occasion when he’s offended someone with a casual, impulsive on-air comment that was intended to be light-hearted and has detonated like a hand grenade in his hand.
He is, quite rightly and wisely, taking ownership of the Banham comment, recognising that a moment that should have been Banham’s has been taken from her and become about him and his loose tongue.
This blunder is less egregious than either the Caroline Wilson gaffe — when, in the midst of a blokey on-air locker room on Triple M, Eddie jested about drowning the journalist — or the more damaging Adam Goodes, «King Kong» comment, which was uttered on morning radio when Eddie says he was exhausted.
McGuire has been in contact with Banham and apologised, having pulled out of his commentary duties for Saturday’s Essendon-St Kilda game on Fox Sports, which chose not to add to their statement, expressing «disappointment» at McGuire’s comment and apologising to Banham and the Swans.
While the AFL was considering the matter on the weekend, it would be surprising if much came of it.
What should happen? Really, this is about McGuire self-regulating. For his own sake, his employers and Collingwood, he needs to avoid another statement that offends someone, having managed the trifecta of Indigenous Australians, women and the disabled.
Four factors have led him to this predicament. One is the sheer number hours he spends talking on air, keeping the conversation moving — on morning radio, in particular. Of course, Gerard Whateley is on air for hours, too, but he’s less inclined to the jocular banter that can bring a middle-aged white male unstuck in these times.
The second factor that has hurt Eddie is the rise of social media. It is revealing that all three of his gaffes have occurred since the middle of 2013. If he said something offensive in 2002 or even 2008, it would not caused the Twitter/Facebook outrage of today.
Third, the AFL and corporate/media culture has moved decisively towards the socially inclusive agendas — or what the conversative would deride as political correctness — laying waste to the Sam Newman version of «The Footy Show» (which Eddie helped create) and rendering offensive comments that would have been tolerated 10 or 15 years ago.
The irony is that McGuire, a confidant of Daniel Andrews, has sought to turn Collingwood — once a bastion of old Australia that suffered from racist outbreaks (Michael Long 1995, Nicky Winmar 1993) — into a more progressive/inclusive organisation, with programs for the homeless, Indigenous and women’s teams. Collingwood even has a wheelchair team.
The fourth factor that has put Eddie in a pickle is his vexed relationship with Sydney — both the Swans and the harbour city, where he’s remembered for his brief stewardship of Channel Nine, for fighting — with some success — against the Swans’ salary cap allowance and the northern state academies.
The Swans, while backing away today, have long had a fractious relationship with the Collingwood president and haven’t been as forgiving of either the Goodes episode — which wounded the champion before he was booed relentlessly — or of Friday night’s clanger, albeit Pridham was more conciliatory on Sunday.
Many people won’t give a toss, so to speak, about McGuire’s comment. Some are outraged, others will see it as an opportunity for ridicule.
But no one will be more hurt by those loose words than Eddie McGuire.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age. He writes news, commentary and analysis on a variety of other sports.