Australian rules football star likens photo comments to 'sexual abuse'

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.

Tayla Harris, who plays for the Carlton 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.”

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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 on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia.

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 on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Michael Willson/AFL Media)

“The comments I saw were sexual abuse, if you can call it that, because it was repulsive and it made me uncomfortable,” Harris said, according to the Guardian. “That is what I would consider sexual abuse on social media.”

Channel Seven removed the photo and offered an apology over the comments.

“Recently we published an image of AFLW player Tayla Harris. The original purpose in publishing the image was to celebrate the power, athleticism and skills on show in Carlton’s thrilling win over the Western Bulldogs,” the station wrote. “The image attracted a number of comments, some of which were inappropriate and offensive. As a consequence, we have removed the image and the comments.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was among those who slammed the posters who left offensive comments on the page.

“I think they’re grubs,” Morrison told reporters, according to the Guardian. “I think they’re cowardly grubs, who need to wake up to themselves.”

Australian Olympian Anna Meares slammed the commenters -- and Channel Seven for removing the photo from its page.

Harris later said in a press conference Wednesday that she hopes the controversy results in some sort of change, according to the newspaper.

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“If I can stand up here and say something about it and start the conversation...if that helps one person or heaps of people then that’s what I want to do,” she said. “I’m fine with people commenting on and critiquing my football, I understand that is the football beast, but it’s the comments that are severely inappropriate, comments that my family will read.”