AFLW star’s photo targeted by 'reprehensible' social media attack

Channel 7 had removed a photo from its AFL Twitter account, after trolls posted inappropriate comments.

Fans and athletes have criticised Channel 7.

Fans and athletes have criticised Channel 7. Source: SBS

AFLW star Tayla Harris says she has been "sexually abused" on social media and wants action taken against those who vilified her.

As the federal government joins a chorus of condemnation, Harris says she's repulsed by some online comments regarding a photo of her kicking at goal.

"The comments I saw were sexual abuse, if you can call it that, because it was repulsive and it made me uncomfortable," Harris told RSN radio on Wednesday.

"That is what I would consider sexual abuse on social media."

Channel Seven has apologised for removing a photo of Harris, after it attracted a flood of inappropriate sexual comments from social media trolls.

A picture of the Carlton Blues forward kicking a goal during her side's final round match against the Western Bulldogs was posted to social media on Tuesday night.

The photo attracted a string of sexist and vile comments, prompting Channel Seven to pull the image offline.

However, Seven was soon criticised for caving to the trolls, and issued an apology.

“We’re sorry. Removing the photo sent the wrong message,” the 7AFL account tweeted, after copping flak for the removal.

“Many of the comments made on the post were reprehensible, and we’ll work harder to ban trolls from our pages.”

The 21-year-old player re-posted the photo, with the caption: “here’s a pic of me at work…think about this before your derogatory comments, animals".

Federal Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer said she was "disgusted" by the trolling.

"We need to out these trolls. We need to out these people who would seek to make misogynist comments about women," O'Dwyer told reporters in Melbourne.

O'Dwyer denounced the Seven Network's handling of its social media post featuring the Harris photo.

"I was pretty frankly disgusted by Channel Seven's response in actually taking down her picture rather than dealing with the trolls," O'Dwyer said.

The broadcaster’s apology came after many respected athletes said their response of deleting the photo sent the wrong message.

Former AFLW player Meg Hutchins said Channel 7’s initial decision to remove the photo was “absolutely disgusting”.

"7AFL you really should be taking a stand reporting these guys for offensive comments," she tweeted.

Olympian Anna Meares said the decision was astounding.

The photographer who took the image, Michael Willson, also added to the chorus of support for the athlete.

Harris called on the AFL, and possibly, police to take action.

"If these people are saying things like this to someone they don't know on a public platform, what are they saying behind closed doors, and what are they doing?," Harris said.

"These people need to be called out by the AFL, yes, but also taken further - maybe this is the start of domestic violence, maybe this is the start of abuse."

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the problem wasn't just an issue for Seven, a broadcast partner of the AFL, or the football code.

"It's more a challenge with the platform, social media, because this is not an isolated incident," McLachlan told reporters in Sydney.

"But when it's unacceptable commentary, more and more people are calling that out and that is what has happened here."

McLachlan said the photo of Harris was iconic.

"It is, I think, a remarkable photo - it shows a great athlete at her most powerful," he said.

#GoTaylaGo is trending on Twitter, as fans celebrate Harris' athleticism.

4 min read
Published 20 March 2019 at 9:29am