The Herald Sun says it has removed the comments section under its online articles about AFLW, in what sports reporter Lauren Wood called a direct response to “the constant trolling, harassment and disgraceful commentary by some members of our community.”
In a piece published just ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday, Wood said the paper “deliberately” removed the reader discussion section after endlessly sexist commentary aimed at the league’s players.
“Some of the comments that our athletes are subjected to are simply too vile to publish,” Wood said.
“This explains why the privilege of commenting on AFLW stories has been removed.”
Matt Kitchin, the paper’s head of sports, said “Players, commentators, fans and clubs have all appealed to the Herald Sun to shut off the comments.”
He said the decision was made after finding “one story contained almost 300 comments of a grossly sexist tone, which were moderated out of publication.”
The comments section has been absent since pre-season, Wood said.
The AFLW 2020 season kicked off on February 7.
This is not the first time sexist commentary has moved a publication to amend its digital coverage.
In March last year, 7AFL deleted a photo of Carlton player Tayla Harris acrobatically kicking a football from its Facebook page after the image garnered torrents of sexist commentary. The post was later reinstated, with 7AFL pledging to “work harder to ban trolls on our pages.”
Similar commentary on the Herald Sun site “Explains why the privilege of commenting on AFLW stories has been removed,” Wood said.
“It’s just that – a privilege, not a right.
“A privilege that unfortunately due to the actions of some has now been denied to all of our readers.”
Taking to Twitter, Wood said the comments section will remain open on Herald Sun stories regarding other women’s sporting stories – for now.
“It seems AFLW is the target for many of these neanderthals,” she said.
“They’re so threatened, as if women playing the game somehow diminishes their beloved men’s competition.”