West Coast forward Liam Ryan has taken a strong stand against the racism scourge haunting the AFL, lashing out at internet trolls after Richmond players Maurice Rioli Jnr and Marlion Pickett were abused on Saturday night.
The Tigers pair were targeted in a vile online attack in the wake of the club’s win over embattled Essendon at the MCG.
Twitter user Ryan Stewart made two separate posts about the players, tagging the official Essendon account.
A post aimed at West Australian and two-time Richmond premiership player Marlon (sic) Pickett read: “did you see that f****** black aboriginal ex-con Marlion Pickett try to take out Michael Hurley on the boundary, did he learned that in prison Marlon Pickett”.
Another attack was targeted at Rioli: “where did Richmond get Maurice rioli jr from from the zoo or did he come from the jungle the black ape, the only thing missing from Maurice rioli jr is a bunch of bananas the gorilla.”
Ryan took to Instagram in a show of support for his fellow Aboriginal players on Sunday night, posting a story with the caption “This is f***ing disgusting it need to stop got your back my brother @mauriceriolijnr @pickettmarls”.
AFL Player’s Association president Paul Marsh added his voice to the pleas for change.
“More racist filth directed at two of our indigenous players. All at @AFLPlayers stand with Marlion and Maurice Jr,” he said.
“Why anyone would think like this, let alone post about it is completely beyond me.”
Marsh shared a screenshot of an Instagram story by Daniel Rioli, the Richmond teammate and uncle of Rioli Jnr.
“This needs to stop!!!! I’ll continue to stand strong with all my brothers and sisters,” the Tigers defender wrote.
The club also posted to Twitter condemning the abuse on Sunday morning, labeling the attacker “pathetic”.
“Last night two Richmond players were the subject of vile racist abuse online,” the post read.
“The club condemns the behavior in the strongest possible terms. Racism is reprehensible and must stop.
“The pathetic individuals who choose to behave in such a way need to be called out.”
Richmond has referred the matter to the AFL’s Integrity Unit who are now investigating.
Earlier this season, Fremantle forwards Michael Walters and Michael Frederick were also subjected to racist attacks online.
The comments referred to Frederick, of Sudanese descent, as “stupid”, a “slave” and a “piece of s***” as well as referencing his skin colour.
At the time, the Tigers, led by veteran forward Jack Riewoldt flanked by the club’s Aboriginal players, released a strongly worded video statement in support of the Dockers pair.