A formal apology by Sam Newman, Don Scott and Mike Sheahan to Nicky Winmar has resulted from a day's mediation between the quartet in Melbourne on Friday, as the trio of AFL media figures completely backed down from their earlier attempt to question the motives for Winmar's gesture of defiance in the face of racial abuse after a game at Victoria Park in 1993.
Newman, Scott and Sheahan met with Winmar and the photograper Wayne Ludbey at the offices of his legal representative Leon Zwier, where a session of bridge building and negotiation was facilitated by the Indigenous broadcaster Stan Grant and the retired Federal Court judge Raymond Finkelstein.
The result was a formal apology from Newman, Scott and Sheahan, to be followed by another apology on the podcast where the comments were first made. The two previous episodes in which Winmar had been discussed will be deleted from all platforms on which the podcast is available, while ESPN understands that there is also a financial settlement as part of the issue's resolution, in the form of a six-figure donation to be made to an Indigenous charity.
"During our 23 June 2020 podcast, we talked about Nicky lifting his jumper and pointing to his skin at the end of the 1993 Collingwood and St Kilda match during which he had been racially abused," the apology from Newman, Scott and Sheahan read. "We acknowledge what Nicky did was an act of Indigenous pride and defiance. It was also a powerful statement of solidarity for Indigenous Australians who are subjected to racism and vilification.
"Any suggestion otherwise was wrong. We have reflected deeply on the issues. "We accept what was said during the podcast has damaged Nicky's reputation. We understand many people would regard what we said as racially discriminatory of Nicky and Indigenous Australians. For all these reasons, we sincerely apologise to Nicky Winmar and to Indigenous Australians generally."
Winmar spoke briefly when leaving the legal offices. "I am happy it's resolved but we still have to work on a few things," he said. "I just wanna say I'm Black and I'm proud and I want to thank the rest of Australia for supporting this. I was very disappointed [with the comments]. It's been a very emotional last few weeks. I believe in what I said."
Winmar and Ludbey had been incensed to hear their version of events at Victoria Park on April 17, 1993 being questioned by Newman, Scott and Sheahan. "In front of me was an Indigenous man responding to racism," Ludbey had told ESPN. "I didn't hear any specific racism directed at him, but he was responding to it and lifted his jumper, pointed at his skin and said 'I'm Black and I'm proud to be Black'.
"I was just doing my job, and it's not about me. It's about a man, a moment and a comment, and his friend Gilbert McAdam. What Mike, Sam and Don don't realise is that I had a 400mm lens on initially, and then I put on a wide angle lens, I only had one camera, and then I ran after Nicky, and he ran to Gilbert. Nicky was in front of the social club area there and then he ran into the centre of the ground where Gilbert was, I was not far behind.
"They embraced and brought their heads together, and Nicky was repeatedly saying in that euphoric moment of celebration, 'I'm Black and I'm proud to be Black, I'm Black and proud to be Black, I'm Black and proud to be Black', to Gilbert as they embraced. So I don't know if I can be any more specific about what happened."
Sheahan, a former colleague of Ludbey who apologised on the most recent edition of the podcast while also indicating he would not be joining Scott and Newman again, had in fact reported in The Age the week after the match that Winmar's gesture and words had been expressly about tackling racism.
"The debate on racism in football came to a head this week after St Kilda's Nicky Winmar's on-field protest last Saturday," Sheahan had written. "He lifted his guernsey, pointed to his chest and told the crowd 'I'm Black, and I'm proud to be Black'."