The Essendon Football Club has apologised to Andrew Thorburn for its handling of his appointment and subsequent exit as its chief executive after reaching a legal settlement with the businessman over the scandal. In a joint statement, Essendon said it “reiterates that Mr Thorburn is a person of integrity who treats others, whether at work or elsewhere, with dignity and respect”. “The Club acknowledges that the events of October should have been handled better and apologises for the impact it had on Mr Thorburn, his family and others,” the statement reads. “Both parties consider that elements of the public commentary at the time were extreme and wrong and counter-productive to the respectful community dialogue they agree is critical.  “Everyone should be able to openly express their personal position, in a respectful way, without fear and still feel that they belong. Genuine diversity and inclusion also include people of faith,” the statement reads.

Mr Thorburn separately said that he wished Essendon well after resolving his claim. “The last few months have been difficult, yet it has also given me hope and strength,” he said. “This has come from the many people who have reached out to me and provided love, prayers and support through these challenging times.” The statement issued by the club was important, he added, because it “affirms some key points of principle about genuine diversity and inclusion and respectful engagement”. Mr. Thorburn quit in October after it emerged he was chairman of a church that preached negative views about homosexuality and abortion. While he distanced himself from those views, made before he held the church’s chairmanship, Mr. Thorburn quit after the club said he would need to choose between the two positions.

At the time, Essendon president Dave Barham said the club had acted swiftly to review revelations that the City on a Hill church posted a 2013 sermon to its website that said acting on same-sex attraction was “a sin” and another likening abortion to concentration camps. Mr. Thorburn had alleged he was wrongfully terminated after he was forced to decide between the City on a Hill leadership and the Essendon position. Essendon, in its joint statement with Mr. Thorburn, said the businessman was “a person of integrity who treats others, whether at work or elsewhere, with dignity and respect”. “He has a strong track record of leadership including with respect to diversity and inclusion of LGBTIQ and other minority groups”. The club will make a donation to an ethics organisation, which will “prepare an independent paper on how sporting organisations can build inclusive communities recognising freedoms including those relating to race, religion and sexuality”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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