Social media can be a great place when it comes to creating conversations with fellow sports fans. It can also be a terrible place, however where athletes and fans alike are subject to abuse, some of which they don’t even know about.
It can quickly become a dark place where people think it’s acceptable to throw insults and threats towards athletes because they don’t face the consequences, which is something that needs to stop.
Western Bulldogs young gun Cody Weightman has been one of the latest athletes to have had insults from AFL fans posted to Instagram, with many of these so-called supporters hiding behind pictures of AFL club logos or empty profile pictures.
The comments come barely weeks after the Western Bulldogs and the AFL teamed up to create the ‘We’re All Mental Health Supporters’ campaign that ran in the lead up to the Bulldogs round 23 clash against Port Adelaide.
It also extends beyond comments and goes into players direct messages on social media. Its becoming worryingly common that the players themselves are having to call out abuse they’ve copped in the DMs because someone lost their multi.
When are we going to start to hold people accountable for their actions and stop allowing them to hide behind fake aliases or hiding behind their phones or computers?
The AFL isn’t the only league or sport that this issue is seeping into, with netball another that has been recently subject to player torment.
Vixens goaler Kaylia Stanton has had disgraceful comments directed to her on Twitter, with one tweet saying ‘not even Sharelle McMahon can perform miracles.’
While thankfully none of these comments have been sent to Stanton directly, it doesn’t make them any less wrong.
As a society, we’re continuing to advocate for mental health yet these comments and direct messages are still happening with some going unnoticed.
What needs to be done to put a stop to it?
It’s time for people to face the consequences of their actions, with several things that can be done to take action.
Firstly, clubs need to take action. If these people that are commenting or direct messaging are a member of a club, suspend or cancel their membership. It will send a loud and clear public message that these comments will not be tolerated by anyone.
We’ve seen clubs suspend memberships for other similar activity by supporters and members, so why should be any different for online player abuse?
Another option is going to the police. While some may think that won’t solve anything, there are several laws in place across the country to punish abusers and stop things like this from happening.
With laws in Australia if you are found guilty of using your phone or internet to harass people it could see perpetrators go to jail for up to three years, 10 years if you threaten to kill someone on the internet, and up to seven if you threaten to severely injure someone.
Toby Greene’s management said during the week that they are willing to go to the police over a comment made on Greene’s partners Instagram page. This is a step in the right direction when it comes to stopping these comments and messages.
No matter the sport, whether it be AFL, NRL, netball, basketball or cricket, people need to start calling these things out and for the perpetrators to start facing the consequences.
The longer that things go unnoticed, or people don’t face the music, the more it’s going to happen to the continued detriment of the athletes that play the games we love.
If you or anyone you know is struggling, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36.
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