AFLW star Sarah Perkins speaks out against body shaming in sport

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“Not everyone is a size six.”

When it comes to sports advertising, we have long been confronted with images of lean and toned athletes. Whether it’s running, athletics, tennis or surfing, the ideal has long been to perpetuate unrealistic body standards. But what the ad gets wrong is that professional sports is not a field that is about beauty. Whether on the court or in the field, the athletes have shown us that their profession is built on courage and determination, which Gold Coast Suns player Sarah Perkins has in excess.

Over the weekend the Gold Coast Suns were beaten by St Kilda but Perkins’ athletic prowess still caught the eye of the crowds. She had already scored a goal and two losses in the game before taking a fifth mark in front of goal with a minute left in the game, her team four points behind. Unfortunately, Perkins mowed the shot wide and the Suns fell to a narrow 5.4 (34) to 4.7 (31) loss.

Perkins was quick to address fans on social media, apologizing for the loss. The 28-year-old wrote: “Yesterday hurt me a lot but the sun came up this morning and I’m ready for a big week on the track and in front of goal. Sorry Gold Coast Suns fans, but please stick with us.

While the response was overwhelmingly positive from most fans, it was also a post that sparked criticism and shameful comments about Perkins’ weight. Not one to back down, Perkins was quick to denounce the posts about his weight, tweeting: “2 out of 2 tonight…someone else dude/fake account wants to comment on my height, build, athleticism ? More than happy to hear feedback on my soccer skills/abilities, but sadly not everyone can be a size 6!”

The AFL Players Association said: “There is no room for that kind of commentary. We’re with you all the way, Perko. It was a sentiment shared by the Suns, who condemned such comments and reported social media users and their comments to the relevant organization. “There is no place for abuse of any form in our game, whether in the stands or on social media,” a club spokesperson said. “As a club and a community… it is up to us to speak out against anti-social behavior when it occurs.”

Other players were quick to voice their support for Perkins. Collingwood captain Steph Chioci wrote in a tweet: “People are just jealous that they never achieved anything worth posting. You still have your back. Can’t wait to see you hit no more snags at 50m and tackle like a boss.

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that are at the heart of sport.

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