In the aftermath of a difficult number of days for Ireland's Conor McKenna in Australia, a number of AFL legends are publicly criticising the manner in which the Tyrone-born Essendon Bomber has been treated in the media.
Amidst the unusual uncertainty with which Conor McKenna's status as a carrier of COVID-19 was debated and the ramifications it could have for the Australian Football League, there was a sense that the furore had outstripped what was a potentially worrying time for a 24-year-old man.
Some of the reporting about Conor McKenna’s positive Covid-19 test is SO disappointing.
He’s actually a human being. No one plans to catch a virus & take down the AFL.
For anyone actually concerned with his wellbeing, you’ll be pleased to know he’s going ok, considering. #AFL
— Catherine Murphy (@CathMurphySport) June 21, 2020
Before the initial low-level positive test he recorded was followed up by a series of negative tests, the Essendon player was roundly turned upon by many in the Australian media.
With a certain pundit calling for Conor McKenna to be indefinitely suspended, as the the red mist has ascended and the player's well-being seems assured, a number of high-profile AFL figures have been calling on those who were so quick to jump on McKenna to now apologise.
"It has been disappointing in many respects how Conor has been treated over the last few days," expressed AFL Players Association President and 2016 Brownlow medal winner Patrick Dangerfield. "He has been treated like a criminal.
"Some in the media need to come out and put their hands up to say they went too hard, too early."
AFLPA President Patrick Dangerfield is disappointed with the treatment of Conor McKenna this week. pic.twitter.com/lWqsNMuMZe
— 1116 SEN (@1116sen) June 26, 2020
Elsewhere, Tom Browne, an Australian journalist who has been criticised for his initial handling of the story, came under scrutiny when he appeared alongside another AFL great, Brian Taylor.
"Some Essendon fans in particular seem frustrated that the media has reported these inconsistent tests," remarked Browne on Seven's AFL coverage.
"All the tests reported throughout the week have been accurate. There's no accuracy issues there, it's really been a health issue in terms of the inconsistency of the tests.
"In terms of the language of the clubs, they do tell some constructive truth at times, it's up to journalists to find out the truth. That's what we have to do."
Needless to say, Taylor wasn't welcoming of Browne's argument.
"I don't see anything you said there that really matters," he responded. "To me, it's about the accountability of the media, and not just journalists, but footballers like myself that are in the media.
"How someone can come out last week and say that a handful of players tomorrow are going to be out of the Essendon Football Club when did not happen?
"Where is the accountability for that? We've got to be very careful. Players like myself have come out and commented on McKenna as well without really knowing the facts.
"It is best to be right rather than first. I know you have an insatiable thirst to be right, Tom, but you have an even more insatiable thirst to be first."
“It’s best to be right rather than first.”
Brian Taylor argues with Tom Browne over accountability in AFL media. pic.twitter.com/6AXdFK5Fc4
— 7AFL (@7AFL) June 26, 2020
Although Browne was not alone in how he acted, others in similar positions have been more regretful regarding their actions in how they reported the story.
A lot of feedback from my C McKenna opinion given on Saturday. Most of it fair and warranted. Went off information that changed, which is my error, I own it and clearly I will follow up with Conor to apologise.
— David King (@davidking34) June 23, 2020
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