Christian Petracca has slammed the racial targeting of Melbourne teammate Kysaiah Pickett on social media as “disgusting” as the AFL community rallies around him.
Third-year forward Pickett, known as ‘Kozzy’, kicked the match-winning goal in thrilling fashion for the Demons with 11 seconds left to pinch victory from Carlton on Saturday night.
The brilliant goal sparked wild celebrations from Melbourne and left a series of stony-faced Blues defenders to rue a wasted opportunity to lock in their finals berth.
But Pickett’s exhilarating moment was soured when an Instagram user racially vilified him, marking the second time in as many seasons the young Demon has been abused on social media.
Coach Simon Goodwin revealed in August last year that Pickett was “visibly distressed” after the previous occasion, with retired AFL champion Eddie Betts calling for clubs to unite to stamp out racism.
Melbourne is working with the AFL’s integrity department to try to identify the social media user responsible for the comments.
Petracca said people believed there were no consequences for their social media actions and could “hide behind their phone and write what they want”.
“It is absolutely disgusting,” the 2021 Norm Smith medalist told KIIS 101.1’s Jase and Lauren on Monday.
“It is just so unfair for a player who is an absolute freak. He is 21 years old, he is an Indigenous player.
“Indigenous players bring so much to the game – so much entertainment, flair, excitement and passion and they put bums on seats.
“To do that (racially vilify him) is just really frustrating, because … as much as clubs can put these statements out, it is so hard to control, because these days they are just keyboard warriors.”
Petracca said the long-term solution to this behavior was greater education.
“The AFL and all the clubs are really quick to respond to all that stuff – it’s just Instagram, and people make fake accounts,” he said.
“They are just trolls, it’s really disgusting and they don’t understand the human side of it.
“(We saw what happened) last year with the Eddie Betts stuff, and it’s all about education around footy clubs and showing us the history of Indigenous lands and what they’ve gone through.”
The Demons issued a statement on Sunday morning condemning the social media comments.
“Last night a Melbourne player was again subjected to racism on social media,” the statement read.
“This sort of behavior is abhorrent and needs to stop. It is saddening, angering and unacceptable that this behavior continues to occur.
“It is important that we, as a football community, call this behavior out and hold these individuals to account.”