Leeds United have "completely condemned" the abuse received by former England footballer Karen Carney after an official club tweet mocking her comments led to a pile-on on social media.
However, the club had still not deleted or apologised for its initial tweet by Wednesday afternoon despite widespread criticism, including from the former Leeds player Rio Ferdinand and Women In Football.
It is also understood that Carney was deeply upset by the tweet, which provoked 4,000 responses – many of them making sexist and abusive remarks towards the former Lioness.
Carney, who played for England 144 times, had suggested that Leeds’ promotion bid had benefited from the coronavirus break in March and they “might blow up at the end of season” during Amazon Prime Sport’s coverage of the club’s 5-0 victory over West Brom.
Leeds quickly responded on Twitter by mocking her comments to their 664,000 followers. The club's owner Andrea Radrizzani later doubled down when asked whether Leeds should be "ashamed" of their actions – saying that he stood by the tweet and that Carney's comments were "completely unnecessary and disrespectful to our club."
Radrizzani was supported by the Brighton defender Ben White, an ever-present on loan at Leeds last season when Bielsa’s side claimed 93 points from 46 games to finish 10 points clear of second-placed West Brom. White posted three face with tears emojis and the current Leeds player Mateusz Klich also used emojis to show disgust at Carney’s comments.
However, on Wednesday afternoon Leeds appeared to partially backtrack in a statement criticising the attacks on Carney. “Leeds United completely condemns any abuse received by Karen Carney on social media following last night’s Premier League game with West Bromwich Albion,” it said. “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.”
Leeds have also reportedly invited Carney to the club’s training ground to do a TV report before the club’s third round FA Cup match against Crawley next week.
Ferdinand, though, has called for the tweet to be deleted while the Women in Football network has also taken a dim view of the club’s stance. “Whether you agree with the comment or not, singling out & ridiculing an individual on an official club account is not what we’re here for,” it tweeted. “Karen Carney is a well-informed pundit. This tweet is inciteful & inappropriate. Not a good look now, or at any time.”
Leeds’ victory over West Brom lifted them to 11th in the table with 23 points from 16 games. Only six newly-promoted teams in Premier League history have picked up more victories than Leeds’ seven at this stage of a campaign.
While initially praising Leeds’ performance against West Brom, Carney went on to make the point that they could fall away because of fatigue. “[LEEDS] outrun everyone and credit to them,” she said. “My only concern would be: would they blow up at the end of the season?’ We saw that in the last couple of seasons and I actually think they got promoted because of Covid in terms of it gave them a bit of respite. I don’t know whether they would have gone up if they didn’t have that break.”
The Leeds manager, Marcelo Bielsa, has been criticised before for his pressing tactics, which some have suggested could lead to burnout in the later stages of a campaign. While he was at Marseille the team dropped from first to fourth in Ligue 1 after leading at halfway, while Leeds also stumbled out of the Championship promotion places during Bielsa’s first year at the club. However, last season, Leeds won five games in a row before the Covid break and went on to lift the Championship comfortably.
It is not the first time Carney has been subject to sickening abuse. In 2018, the Football Association was forced to call on the police and social media companies to help stop online attacks.
Phil Neville, the England manager, pointed out the abuse Carney had received, sharing an Instagram post which wished "cancer, leukaemia and rape" on her, writing: "A message sent to one of my lionesses players last night, absolutely disgraceful." He went on to ask Instagram: "Are you going to do something about it?"
Leeds responded similarly in October following posts on social media from the former Aston Villa player Gabriel Agbonlahor before the two teams met. Leeds won 3-0 at Villa Park. - Guardian