The AFL Players Association says all fans could be the losers after another player was subjected to disgusting messages on Instagram.
Fans have been warned players will stop engaging on social media if the “vile” attacks on players like Mitch Duncan from online trolls continue.
AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh told the Herald Sun on Sunday he was disgusted by the latest online attack.
Duncan was concussed after being dumped into the ground by Gold Coast’s Nick Holman but a punter subjected him to a stream of expletives on Instagram as he complained about a lost bet.
Duncan’s wife Demi posted a shocking message, labelling him “weak as fkn p—” and “p—-” by an irate user who claimed Duncan going down injured had cost him money.
“Cost me 1k ($1000) am expecting to be reimbursed,” he said.
Duncan’s wife Demi revealed the couple had previously been subjected to death threats by punters who had lost money on Geelong-related AFL bets.
“Wow. What a delightful message for my husband to receive,” Demi wrote.
“We have been inundated with amazing messages from sooooo many people. I’ve never had so many DM’s. Thank you I literally can’t reply to everyone.
“Luckily those type of messages don’t bother Mitch. Like they obviously bother me but these messages happen all the time. Some are even death threats which is just appalling.”
Demi pleaded with people to think before they send abusive messages.
“Some people don’t have the mental capacity to deal with reading disgusting messages, so please think before you act as a keyboard warrior.”
Marsh said players would continue to report dangerous posts to police after a fan was charged after threatening to rape the wife of Richmond star Dylan Grimes.
He said social media giants were still being pressed to do more over anonymous users who subjected players to abuse.
But Marsh said players were sick of abuse from anonymous trolls.
“There is no excuse for this type of behaviour. It is completely unacceptable and it should not be tolerated. Our fear is players won’t open themselves up to interacting with the public on social media. It gets to a point where players will just decide not to connect on social media,” he said.
“One of the positives of social media is it has brought fans closer together. Whether it’s Mitch Duncan or Scott Lycett or the multitude of racism issues or sexism issues we have seen over the last few years, it will drive players and athletes from social media platforms
“At the end of the day it’s about the behaviour of individuals who choose to take out their frustrations directly to a player. When you have a player who is seriously injured during a game of footy with concussion, to have to put up with that, to have that directed to you is just vile.”
Geelong said it would speak to Duncan about the online abuse he received when he was feeling better — as he recovered at home from his concussion on Sunday — to ascertain what he wanted to do about it.
The club said it would be guided by Duncan‘s decision.
Marsh said the small silver lining was the public’s response to trolls, with fellow users continuing to call out those posts.
“I think the players have certainly called out this action and while it doesn’t make it stop, it’s shining a light on it and I think the vast majority of the public would say, “What the hell is wrong with people who stoop to these levels?” In that action there is some level of positive.”
In-form midfielder Duncan had been building another strong game when he was tackled and dragged to the ground by Gold Coast’s Nick Holman just before halftime at GMHBA Stadium.
Mitch and Demi have two children, Scarlet and Oliver, and the 229-game star Cat was back on his feet and photographed with his son after the game.