Former England Football International player Karen Carney was subjected to some extraordinary social media abuse recently.

So much so, that Carney made the decision to delete her Twitter account after three days of constant vitriol.

Carney, 33, with 144 England caps under her belt, made her comments during a recent Amazon Prime broadcast of Leeds’ 5-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.

Carney had agreed that Leeds “outrun everyone” but was concerned that they would “blow up at the end of the season” as they had done previously.

Leeds United easily won the Championship last year returning to top flight football after an absence of 16 years.

“They actually got promoted because of Covid in terms of the game and a bit of respite, I don’t know whether they would have got up if they didn’t have that break,” she went on to say.

The video of Carney’s comments shared in the tweet, which remains on Leeds’ account, has been viewed 5.8m times.

Leeds United responded with a tweet of their own questioning her expertise as a football pundit, which in turn led to a torrent of abuse by mainly Leeds supporters.

Sky Sports commentator Jeff Stelling sarcastically commented “Leeds so lucky that Covid intervened. They had only won five in a row before the season was suspended. Clearly running out of steam!!!”

To be fair, there were also some voices of support for her punditry.

The point was that under manager Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds are a high octane team and have continued that style of play in the Premier League, with mixed results.

Carney was merely offering an opinion as to whether that style of play was sustainable without the pandemic, given their history of implosion in recent years.

Leeds won the Championship by 10 points in 2019-20. They won seven and drew one of their nine Championship matches when football resumed in June following the initial Covid-19 lockdown. They had won six and drawn one of their nine fixtures before the lockdown.

United’s tweet sharing footage of Carney’s comments actually tagged the account of Amazon Prime, for whom she works.

United’s owner Andrea Radrizzani, replying to a tweet which said Leeds should be “ashamed” of their actions, wrote: “I take the responsibility of the club tweet.

“I consider that comment [from Carney] completely unnecessary and disrespectful to our club and particularly to the fantastic hard work of our players and coaches.”

The Premier League club later said, somewhat belatedly, “Everyone at our club respects Karen greatly for all she has achieved in the game, as well as her work in the media and the charity work she undertakes.”

Former Leeds and England defender Rio Ferdinand was among those who called on the club to delete the post, which was retweeted 11,500 times.

There were others in the media expressing concern the tweet was inflammatory and would invite criticism of former Birmingham, Arsenal and Chelsea winger Carney on social media.

Tennis commentator David Law tweeted: “Did you really need to tweet something like this and invite a pile-on?”

French journalist Philippe Auclair wrote: “To publish such a tweet on an official club account was already questionable, to say the least. To keep it there when its target is receiving abuse which was prompted by your tweet is simply wrong.”

And USA international Megan Rapinoe said “Shame. Shame. Shame. Thicken up that skin y’all. Also, don’t come for Karen Carney she’s a National treasure.”

The Women in Football group tweeted: “Whether you agree with the comment or not, singling out and ridiculing an individual on an official club account is not what we’re here for. Karen Carney is a well-informed pundit. This tweet is inciteful and inappropriate. Not a good look now, or at any time.”

Some have questioned whether a male pundit offering the same opinion would have been subjected to a similar backlash.

All commentators must expect some kind of reaction once they have offered an analysis of an individual, team, club or management.

Is it a question, therefore, of developing a thick skin to such abuse?

Whether this is a case of pure sexism is open to debate. As is the appropriate usage of social media by a sporting team and its management to counter opinions that are expressed either for or against.


Image via The Irish Times

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