Hateful tweets sent to AFL footballers will be ripped apart by Demons players when they enter the MCG on Friday night as part of an anti-bullying campaign.
- The Melbourne Football Club banner will be composed of abusive messages directed at players
- The campaign comes after racist abuse was directed at Adelaide star Eddie Betts
- Melbourne player Neville Jetta said he struggled with racist abuse early in his career
The move comes a few weeks after the AFL community rallied behind Adelaide Crows star Eddie Betts, who was targeted in a racist attack on Instagram.
Demons player Neville Jetta said he hoped the club’s campaign would change attitudes among Australia’s younger generation.
“It’s not just racism, it’s actually bullying, bullying people, and AFL players have that stance where we’re able to speak out to the community and people actually listen to us,” he told Fox Sports’ AFL 360 program.
Jetta — a Noongar man who moved from Perth to Melbourne to play for the club — said he had been deeply affected by racist online abuse early in his football career.
“In my early days I probably wasn’t strong enough to call it out and they were the ones that I just deleted,” Jetta said.
He said one particular comment when he was about 18 or 19 had stayed with him for a month and affected his on-field performance.
The club’s campaign is being run in partnership with youth organisation Reach, which was founded by the late Melbourne player Jim Stynes.
In a video released as part of the campaign, players hold up signs reading “F**k me dead I’m sick of seeing Max Gawn” and “Neville Jetta is a scum bag! Cheap shot”.
Players will run through a banner built from tweets attacking AFL teams and players to highlight the seriousness of cyberbullying, which Reach said affected one in five young Australians.
Jetta said the groundswell of support from other players, fans and the AFL community in recent years meant he now felt more confident about confronting racist abuse.
“The united approach that we’ve had definitely strengthens the courage within you to stand up to this stuff,” he said.