When this happens, the AFLPA’s process is to provide players with mental health services and call out the behaviour publicly, but only with the player’s permission, as that has the potential to inflame the situation by drawing more attention to it.
Huntington said she would like to see the same response to misogynistic and homophobic comments that the AFLPA and AFL have been applying to stamp out racism.
“I know it’s not always possible with a lot of liberty that you can get on the internet, but I’d really like to see the same response to misogynistic comments and homophobic comments,” said Huntington.
“If these are just floating around, and they’re floating around in masses on every single AFLW post, then it just becomes the norm and teaches the next generation that that’s acceptable. Whereas I think, so far, we’ve done a good job with starting to try and stamp out some of the racism that we see.”
The former No.1 draft pick said she wants more protections put in place.
“It needs to be highlighted that there’s a real difference as well in terms of what a lot of these AFLW players are copping online, as opposed to just normal sort of criticism about games or analysis of the actual sport because it’s completely targeted,” said Huntington.
‘It needs to be highlighted that there’s a real difference as well in terms of what a lot of these AFLW players are copping online, as opposed to just normal sort of criticism about games or analysis of the actual sport because it’s completely targeted.’
“It’s misogynistic, and it’s homophobic and transphobic, and it’s just really, really disgusting, but nothing’s really been done about it. And I think yeah, athletes in general sort of get told, ‘Ah well, you know, that’s part of the job, you’ve got to cop it’.”
An AFL spokesperson said while the league investigates all cases of online abuse they are made aware of, it is often difficult to find perpetrators given the level of anonymity afforded to online accounts.
“Unfortunately, all athletes are easy targets, and our work in this space never stops to ensure our players are supported, prepared and equipped to engage in social media, and they continue to have the avenues to escalate issues if required,” the spokesperson said.
All players participate in an online education session with the AFL digital team as part of their induction process, where they are provided with tools on how to safely navigate social media.
This includes tools on how to manage settings within their accounts, to mitigate potential abuse, and the steps to report online abuse and escalate it when required. Players also annually undertake e-safety education sessions .
The AFL has a formal partnership with Australia’s eSafety Commissioner to put in place preventative strategies for online abuse, remove abusive posts and take action against perpetrators. It also involves education sessions for players to raise awareness of mechanisms to stay safe online.
Huntington said she would rather the focus was on the people sending the messages and making the comments “as opposed to putting the focus on the players and having a really reactionary response”.
“We’re sort of putting ourselves out there in a way to be susceptible to this sort of stuff, and you get told, ‘Oh just don’t look at the comment sections’, but it’s really kind of victim blaming. If that’s the case, there’s not enough done to combat it and to ban the people that are making these comments,” Huntington said.
“It’s difficult enough to be playing an elite sport from a mental side, there are so many pressures, but then to have really targeted things about your sexuality and your gender that are completely unfair and unwarranted [and] also don’t make you feel safe.”
Chiocci said she was really pleased with how the Magpies, the AFL and AFLPA handled the situation in providing her with support but also said it was frustrating that more can’t be done to combat the issue.
“We had no right of reply, but they can say whatever they want about you. Even if it’s not true, which is really, really hard,” said Chiocci.
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