Port Adelaide legend Kane Cornes has weighed in on the AFLW body shaming storm, declaring coaches and commentators should still be able to criticise a player if they are out of shape.
Gold Coast forward Sarah Perkins posted a photo of herself to social media after the Suns’ three-point defeat to St Kilda on Sunday and some comments on the tweet mocked her fitness and appearance.
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Underneath her words Perkins included a screenshot of comments taking aim at her body shape and also wrote on her Instagram story “S**t like this will never get old”, adding two emojis of a hand sticking its middle finger up.
Perkins was inundated with support from fellow players, fans and commentators after she exposed some of the grim replies to her photo.
The incident has sparked a broader debate regarding body shaming and Cornes believes it’s a fine line but commentators and coaches should be able to criticise a player’s physique if they are out of shape.
“Sarah Perkins has put this up in lights this week after a couple of comments on a photo of her playing AFLW for Gold Coast,” he said on SEN on Thursday.
“She shared it, the reaction has been swift and strong and the online trolls have been condemned, as they should be. If you are an anonymous troll online, you are very low in society, you’re pretty low on the food chain.
“That being said, there needs to be an ability to talk about athletes and their bodies when they are full time professional athletes that have one job and that is to prepare yourself and be in the best possible shape.
“A fitness coach or a coach at an AFL club needs to have the ability to speak strongly to a player who’s not prepared.
“You cannot be accused of body shaming an athlete if you call them out for being overweight, unfit, however you want to phrase it, even though it is a new world that we all understand.
“I hate the term body shaming because I don’t think anyone from a professional sporting sense, when your body is your weapon, can be body shamed.
“And equally, if you’re in the media and Jake Stringer is 8kg heavier than what he was the season before by his own admission and his performance has suffered or he’s getting injured, we need to be able to call that out and I will continue to call that out.
“An AFL football club is not your typical workplace and that will always be the case.”
However, Cornes acknowledged it’s unfair to critique part-time AFLW players as harshly as their fully professional AFL counterparts.
“If you’re a part-time AFLW player that works during the week or you’re a SANFL player who works during the week and you’re part-time, I’m certainly not going to hold you to the same standards as a full-time highly paid professional athlete,” he said.
Cornes’ comments come after Melbourne legend Garry Lyon said Perkins was targeted by “gutless, spineless cowards” as his SEN radio co-host, Essendon great Tim Watson, questioned whether athletes’ fitness levels could still be discussed without accusations of “fat shaming”.
“That shouldn’t also mean that we can’t have a conversation about the fitness levels of players be they male players or female players and the way that people turn themselves out to play the game, should we?” Watson said.
“I don’t want to fat shame anybody. But I’m just saying that if you’re playing an elite sport, is it a legitimate conversation to have about that or not?
“(Essendon star) Jake Stringer was part of this conversation not last season but the season before and others and now it’s like, ‘Can you still talk about that without fat shaming somebody?’”
Lyon said it’s unfair to judge AFLW players — who are not paid nearly as much as AFL stars — to the same standards as their male counterparts.
“They (AFLW players) aspire to be full-time and full-time professional but it is married up with the fact that they aren’t at this stage of their careers,” Lyon said.
“They aren’t in that zone, they’ve still got to do other things and work … so the criticism is tempered somewhat by the fact they aren’t fully professional.
“They’re getting there and they will be judged along those lines when they do arrive at that point.”