An Australian newspaper has shut down comments on its coverage of the women’s Australian Football League, after being inundated with sexist remarks and trolling.
The Herald Sun said it took the step after receiving “vile” abuse directed at the athletes and journalists covering the sport, a problem that a handful of AFL Women’s stars have spoken out about.
“If you don’t like something, no one is forcing you to read, or watch, or engage,” the paper wrote in an editorial explaining its decision. “Some of the comments that our athletes are subjected to are simply too vile to publish.
“The least offensive of the comments runs to the tune of ‘get back in the kitchen’, and the worst cannot be repeated they are so objectionable,” Herald Sun head of sport Matt Kitchin added.
“It makes the environment so unpleasant that it makes perfect sense that readers wouldn’t want to engage with the stories.”
Kitchin said AFL clubs and players had appealed to the newspaper to turn off its comments, adding that one story had almost 300 comments of a “grossly sexist tone.”
The women’s AFL league was set up in 2016 to compliment the long-running men’s league, which is avidly followed in several parts of Australia and has been a national obsession for decades.
Since its creation, players have occasionally spoken about sexist abuse they have received online.
Last year, a controversy erupted after broadcaster Channel 7 stopped running a picture of Tayla Harris taken during a game, following a flood of derogatory comments directed towards the star player.
Harris received a swell of online support and thousands more followers, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the trolls “cowardly grubs.”
“Some take time out of their day to question whether trolls even exist, and whether commentary surrounding negativity is all just a big conspiracy,” the Herald Sun’s editorial said. “Trust me, we’ve heard and read them all. You’re not original.”