Online trolls targeting Adelaide Crows players on social media in the wake of their AFL grand final defeat are “fundamentally cowards” who should be aware of the potential damage they are doing, former Beyond Blue chairman Jeff Kennett says.
Some so-called fans, mostly from other clubs, and social media users have unleashed abuse on the players, targeting them with offensive comments and, in at least one case, sending a picture of a noose.
That tweet has since been deleted.
The club said while negative comments were unfortunately a common occurrence, there had been a noticeable rise in player-shaming following Saturday’s defeat.
Mr Kennett said he was “disappointed” to hear about the “anonymous onslaught” that had been aimed at the players.
“It’s an abuse, quite clearly. It highlights one of the great challenges we have with social media today,” Mr Kennett said.
“[It] is not only bad manners, it can and could materially affect the mental health of one or more of those the comments have been directed at.”
AFL online memes are robust, but trolling is ‘cowardice’
While football supporters often create humorous and sometimes borderline memes, the level of offence in this case was entirely different, Mr Kennett suggested.
The Beyond Blue founder questioned the loyalty of fans who could so easily resort to savaging their own players.
“These people are fundamentally cowards using Twitter and other social media forms to direct barbs at the players,” he said.
“The last thing Adelaide needs is some of its community now to be turning on its own.
“Supporters should recognise that they have done their best.”
But most of the abuse seems to have come from non-Crows fans.
The club said players were routinely counselled on ways to deal with abusive social media commentary.
“As players and members of the club, we’re very well educated from the AFL and also the club on how to control it,” ruckman Sam Jacobs said.
“It’s something we don’t want to give fuel to.
“We understand where social media sits these days – it’s an important tool for both the club and players but in times like this, when you didn’t play as well as you wanted, [it’s] something you don’t want to have a look at.”
Despite their disappointment, thousands of fans turned out at Adelaide Oval to welcome the team home on Sunday.
Many Crows fans have instead sent positive messages of support and encouragement for next season.