An innocent Instagram photo of AFL star Dustin Martin has sparked a fiery debate about double standards and equality in sport.
The photo of Martin, on the field in his Richmond Tigers uniform and posted to his personal account, drew dozens of sexually-charged comments from female fans.
‘Get your lips around those thighs,’ wrote one woman, while another described in great detail her crude sexual fantasy with the tattooed footy bad boy.
The issue is a hot topic after vile comments underneath a picture posted online of AFL Womens player Tayla Harris caused headlines across the country.
Harris described the comments as a ‘repulsive’ form of ‘sexual abuse’ and called on Victoria Police to intervene, while the AFL confirmed their integrity unit would be investigating and handing out lifelong bans to those behind the negative comments.
While the decision to prosecute those who left rude comments on Harris’ Instagram was praised, some social media users claimed it was a case of double standards.
A photo of AFL star Dustin Martin inundated with sexually charged comments has left fans questioning whether male players are harassed on social media
An image (above) of Tayla Harris was uploaded to twitter by 7AFL and attracted offensive comments
Melbourne amateur football player Cooper Perrin took to Facebook to call out the AFL for taking issue with the crude comments aimed at Harris – but seemingly ignoring others left on the accounts of male players.
‘Why are these comments acceptable if the ones made about Tayla Harris aren’t?’ he wrote.
‘Case of double standards,’ agreed on commenter.
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‘Can almost see up his shorts,’ read one of the comments taken from Martin’s Instagram.
‘I taught him this move last night,’ added another.
Mr Perrin said he felt compelled to make the Facebook post to empower other men.
‘Most men in football aren’t fussed by what they are messaged and comments made but some will be that are too afraid to speak about because they will be judged,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I want people to not be afraid to speak up about how it affects them.’
The photo of Martin, on the field in his Richmond Tigers uniform, was posted to his personal Instagram last month
Some people have questions whether comments to the photo are sexual harassment
Harris appeared on breakfast radio on Wednesday morning and described the comments as ‘sexual abuse’.
‘I’m feeling empowered this morning. I think because of the reaction that’s come, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind,’ Harris told RSN Radio’s Breakfast Club.
‘It is really amazing that the AFL community got around me,’ the star said, while admitting the issue is now about what authorities can do to stop social media trolling ever being accepted.
‘It’s not about me now, it’s about a much bigger picture,’ she said.
‘Some of the comments were sexual abuse, what I would consider sexual abuse on social media.
‘These people need to be called out by the AFL, but something needs to go further. It’s something maybe Victoria Police should have to look at.’
Police responded to the controversy saying that online harassment is taken very seriously.
‘Where instances of online harassment constitute an offence, Victoria Police takes the matter seriously and investigates accordingly,’ a Victoria police spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia.
The image was initially posted by 7AFL’s Twitter account, but it was quickly hijacked by trolls – leading them to replace it with a message about the post.
‘The original purpose in publishing the image was to celebrate the power, athleticism and skills on show in Carlton’s thrilling win over the Western Bulldogs,’ the message read.
‘The image attracted a number of comments, some of which were inappropriate and offensive. As a consequence we have removed the image and the comments.’
Fans immediately questioned why the image needed to be taken down and eventually 7AFL posted it again.
‘It’s with the misogynistic behaviour by the supporters in the comments. Try blocking these accounts from your social media. Take a stand.’ one user said.
Sporting stars rallied behind the AFL Women’s star and begun re-tweeting the image of Tayla Harris which was deleted
Anna Meares criticised 7AFL for their decision to delete the image because of the negativity
AFL stars and athletes criticised 7AFL for making the decision to remove the image.
Footballer Darcy Vesico posted: ‘Deleting this post is giving into trolls. Also you’re eliminating all the positive conversation. Also you’re removing more content around women in sport.’
‘How this incredible image of Tayla Harris by Michael Willson was seen as negative and drew trolls to comment and that 7AFL took it down as a result…ASTOUNDS ME,’ Australian cyclist Anna Meares said.
An apology was made by 7AFL who said that ‘removing the photo sent the wrong message’.
‘Many of the comments made on the post were reprehensible & we’ll work harder to ban trolls from our pages.
‘Our intention was to highlight @taylaharriss incredible athleticism & we’ll continue to celebrate women’s footy.’
Harris didn’t comment on the removal of the photo, but slammed the Twitter trolls.
‘Here’s a pic of me at work… think about this before your derogatory comments, animals,’ she tweeted.
The image was re-uploaded and 7AFL issued an apology stating ‘removing the photo sent the wrong message’
Fans immediately questioned why the image needed to be taken down from the 7AFL site