AFL Women’s star Tayla Harris says she is in fear for her safety after vile and abusive comments were posted online to a photo of her kicking a ball during a match.
The photo of the Carlton star was initially posted to the 7AFL site on Tuesday but soon attracted sexual comments which prompted the site to take the picture down.
Outcry at that decision among AFL circles and leading female sportswomen saw that decision reviewed and the photo uploaded again, but now Harris says she is concerned that the trolls who made the comments might target her in the flesh.
AFL Women’s star Tayla Harris (pictured) says she is in fear for her safety after vile and abusive comments were posted online to a photo of her kicking a ball during a match
‘These people are behind screens now but no one’s saying they aren’t going to show up at the footy at the weekend,’ Harris said on Wednesday.
‘I genuinely consider that they might show up at the footy. If they’re thinking this way and able to write it down, what are they going to do when I’m on sideline meeting some kids – that’s what I’m going to have to think about now.
‘As much it shouldn’t be the case at all, that’s the reality of it.’
Harris appeared on breakfast radio on Wednesday morning and slammed 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.
An image (above) of Tayla Harris was uploaded to twitter by 7AFL and attracted offensive comments
Harris (pictured right) addressed her concerns for her safety at a press conference on Wednesday
‘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.’
AFL chief executive Gillon Maclachlan was pleased by the public reaction against the comments, and said community vigilance was the best guard against such offensive commentary.
‘She’s a star AFL player, there’s unacceptable commentary and people are holding those comments to account and I think that’s really pleasing,’ Maclachlan said.
‘These things happen and people do their best to monitor them, but in the end self-regulation and accountability is what needs to happen here and that is what’s happening.’
The image was captured in a match against the Western Bulldogs, but 7AFL’s Twitter post was quickly hijacked by trolls, leading them to replace it with a message about the post.
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
‘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.
AFL stars and athletes criticised 7AFL for making the decision to remove the image.
Her Carlton teammate Darcy Vescio 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.’
The image was re-uploaded and 7AFL issued an apology stating ‘removing the photo sent the wrong message’
‘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.
Fans immediately questioned why the image needed to be taken down and blamed trolls