Recently, social media went into meltdown over what was a typical sporting image, showing great skill and athleticism. Tayla Harris, forward for Carlton FC, leapt into the air after kicking for goal, and a photographer perfectly captured the moment.
But after some nasty comments, a fantastic photo quickly turned into a disaster, one that the NRL can learn from.
Now, it’s important to clarify that these comments weren’t your run of the mill “cheeky” or “humorous” comments that can receive backlash for sexism, some of these comments were pure sexism, filled with derogatory slurs surrounding Tayla’s body, gender and sexuality.
So far, the NRL hasn’t had too many issues such as this, so the purpose of this article isn’t necessarily to critique the NRL, but rather look at how they can maintain this support into the future.
The Media’s Reaction
The biggest downfall in the whole situation was the media reaction and coverage of the situation. Channel 7, the main free-to-air broadcaster for AFL, deleted the image and released a statement on why, but then back flipped after public backlash.
While they haven’t yet had any issues, but it’s quite straightforward how Fox and Channel 9 can avoid these kinds of situations: back and support players, both male and female. With so much negative coverage surrounding the NRL at the moment, and strategies such as #Talkthegameup, it’s important for media coverage to not give in to sexist, racist or discriminatory comments on social media. If the NRL’s response to the Women’s State of Origin kiss is anything to go off, they’re doing just fine.
The Organisation and Clubs
The AFL and Carlton need to be commended for their coverage of the saga. Both reposted the image several times and made statements against sexism. The image was used as promotional material for the game and the next match, due to its display of athleticism and as a way of standing up against discrimination.
The AFL community overall handled the situation brilliantly, with the image being shared plenty of time around social media, and the hashtag #taylakickchallenge having over 600 mentions on Instagram alone.
While it’s impossible to speak for the entire NRL community, the majority would be similar in the face of this kind of situations. The introduction of the NRLW last year saw very few negative comments, and these were often ignored or shut down.
It’s been pretty smooth sailing for the NRL so far with the introduction of the NRLW, and any small bumps of sexism, racism or discrimination against male or female players have been carefully handled in a positive way, but it’s always important to look to the mistakes of other codes and see how things can go so wrong.