Tayla Harris concerned for safety in Australian Rules football after online abuse

AFLW Carlton Blues forward Tayla Harris speaks during a press conference at Ikon Park

AFLW Carlton Blues forward Tayla Harris speaks during a press conference at Ikon Park

Tayla Harris, who plays for the Carlton Women's Football Club, told an Australian radio station that the comments made on the Facebook photo posted to Channel Seven's AFL page were akin to "sexual abuse".

Channel Seven controversially pulled down the photo after it attracted offensive comments from online trolls.

"The original goal in publishing the image was to celebrate the power, athleticism and skills on show in Carlton's thrilling win over the Western Bulldogs", they said in a statement.

"The self-regulation that's going on and accountability I think is what needs to happen, and that's what happened".

"As much it shouldn't be the case at all, that's the reality of it".

Talking at Carlton's home Ikon Park on Wednesday, Harris said she hoped her experience would prove the catalyst for change.

A female Australian rules football star lashed out this week against crude and disparaging comments made about a photo of her in mid-air kicking the ball.

"... The support that has come from this has been phenomenal".

But the post quickly attracted dozens of sexually explicit comments from vicious trolls who Harris labelled "animals". 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?

Tayla Harris of the Blues kicks the ball during the 2019 NAB AFLW Round 07 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Carlton Blues at VU Whitten Oval

The US even jumped on the hype, publishing articles about the captivating issue on Thursday. Because if these people are saying things like this to someone they do not know on a public platform, what are they saying behind closed doors and what are they doing?

Harris was the target of unrelenting online abuse earlier this week after a photo of her in action for Carlton was attacked by online "trolls".

"Revelations fellow players were behind some of the online trolling pointed to a cultural issue within the code", the report says.

Harris herself expressed similar concerns about what that nature of social media commenting reveals about the attitudes many have towards women in sport.

Netizens started posting what was widely perceived as sexist and derogatory comments, causing Channel Seven to take down the shot of the 21-year-old Australian from its social media accounts - something which has drawn even more controversy.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said that the situation around the iconic photo of a "great athlete" was unacceptable.

"I think they're grubs", he said. They're cowards, they're weak.

"They are acting out some sort of hatred in a way which really just lessens them as people and they just need to wake up to themselves".

"We're always talking to them, improving, learning, evolving - it's a challenging space".

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