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An Australian broadcaster is apologizing for “sending the wrong message” after deleting a photograph of a female football player that prompted a deluge of sexist and misogynist comments online.
“Here’s a pic of me at work,” Tayla Harris, a forward for the Australian Rules Football Carlton Blues, tweeted Tuesday. “Think about this before your derogatory comments, animals.”
Harris, 21, posted the message on her private Twitter account along with a photo of herself kicking a goal in Sunday’s match against the Western Bulldogs after Australian television network 7AFL removed the image due to abusive and “reprehensible” comments.
“We’re sorry,” the station tweeted hours after Harris’ post. “Removing the photo sent the wrong message. Many of the comments made on the post were reprehensible & we’ll work harder to ban trolls from our pages. Our intention was to highlight @taylaharriss incredible athleticism & we’ll continue to celebrate women’s footy.”
In an earlier tweet, the station said it removed the photo — which showcased Harris’ “power, athleticism and skills” — after it attracted attention from trolls who left “inappropriate and offensive” comments. That prompted an immediate backlash online, where social media users noted that the “photo was not the problem,” among other gripes.
“These images [should] be promoted to the young girls coming through, to inspire and motivate them,” another comment read. “Block the trolls, don’t let their immaturity or hatred be a detriment to the real footballs out there.”
Other users said it made much more sense to moderate the post and remove the offensive comments rather than take down the image altogether.
“You did nothing but give in to the idiots and then hide an athlete that has done nothing but pursue and hone her talents,” another tweet read. “Put that image back up, moderate the comments and then block and report those who don’t deserve the time nor voice.”
Harris told a Melbourne radio station that the comments she saw on the original photo were tantamount to “sexual abuse, if you can call it that,” adding that the remarks were repulsive and made her feel uncomfortable.
“That is what I would consider sexual abuse on social media,” Harris said, according to the Associated Press. “I don’t want to give oxygen to the trolls but … I saw the comments. I know I shouldn’t read them but it’s hard not to … and I can see in people’s profile pictures that they have kids or they have got daughters, or there are women in their photos — and that is the stuff that I’m worried about.”