AFL clubs are vowing to crack down on cowards who abuse football players on social media, moving to strip memberships or force trolls to confront their victims face to face.
It comes as Richmond took a decisive stand against online trolls on Tuesday by banning a member for two years after an AFL investigation identified one of the club’s members was behind racist online comments targeted at Indigenous West Coast Eagles player Liam Ryan.
The 22-year-old forward was called a ‘monkey’ by a number of social media users on Channel 7’s AFL Instagram account in response to a post asking fans if Ryan should be suspended over a clash with another player during the game against the Brisbane Lions on Saturday.
Richmond has been made aware that a Club member racially vilified West Coast’s Liam Ryan via social media over the weekend.
The Club has immediately suspended the person’s membership for two years, revoking all of their member rights.
— Richmond FC 🐯 (@Richmond_FC) March 26, 2019
The offender has been ordered to undertake a cultural awareness program before his or her membership is reinstated in 2021.
West Coast responded to the racist online attacks made against Ryan by sharing a video to social media denouncing “racism of any kind”.
The premiership club’s CEO Trevor Nisbett urged all football fans to educate their friends and family about the hurt caused by using racist slurs such as ‘monkey’ towards Indigenous people.
We're taking a stand against racism.
We need your support.
Learn, share and start a conversation.
— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) March 26, 2019
“For many, the term ‘monkey’ or ‘ape’ is just name-calling, but for Aboriginal people it cuts much, much deeper than that,” Mr Nesbitt said in the video.
“It is a throwback to early settlement, when this land was settled under terra nullius or ‘No Man’s Land’.
“The reason for that is because Aboriginal people weren’t thought of as human beings; we were thought of as a sub-human species, and that decision to settle the land under those terms triggered some of the most horrific, degrading and inhumane treatment to our men, women, children and our babies.”
Collingwood’s general media manager Stephen Rielly said in some instances, the club has identified online trolls and either cancelled their memberships or attempted to educate them in person.
“We try to reach out to them and help them understand and explain to them that there are consequences,” Mr Rielly said.
“They can’t return to the club until everyone is satisfied why we’ve had their membership cancelled.
“If it is an individual athlete that has been abused, we will arrange for them to meet face to face with that player.
“Often when they’re confronted with it, they’re deeply embarrassed by what they said.”
Greater Western Sydney’s head of media and communications Leigh Meyrick said “the club monitors all online channels closely to ensure they reflect our family-friendly values”.
Carlton CEO Cain Liddle has promised to follow the zero-tolerance approach set by Richmond by saying he would “absolutely consider the cancellation of an (online troll’s) membership in future”.
His commitment to toughen up on keyboard cowards follows a tough stand against “sex abuse” by star AFLW Carlton player Tayla Harris, who said disgusting and sexually degrading comments made by online trolls on a photo of her had left her feeling scared to go to work.
On Friday, Harris started the #TaylaKickChallenge, prompting young girls to show off their best kicks to impersonate the impressive photo.