False, transphobic social media post over a Papua New Guinea women’s rugby league match sparks vile online abuse

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The worst of social media and the epitome of actual “fake news” has erupted over a vile and incorrect post on X, formerly Twitter.

The storm began when someone who calls themselves a journalist, David Atherton, posted a video of a heavy, well-executed tackle in a women’s rugby league match between an Australian Prime Minister’s XIII team and Papua New Guinea.

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It has since emerged the video, which you can watch above, is from back in 2022, but Atherton doesn’t let that get in the way of his vitriol.

“A trans woman shows why they have no place in women’s sport. This is a Rugby League match,” Atherton wrote on the caption.

Sadly his post, which was published on the evening of January 31, has been viewed 1.6 million times, has over 9,000 likes and 1,500 comments.

The vast majority of them are racist, bigoted, sexist or flat-out wrong and we’ll leave the worst of them out, but some of the include those listed below.

“(The women) should sit and let the time run out until the man gets off their field,” was one comment.

“A man shows why they have no place in women’s sports,” wrote another.

“It’s just a man in a woman’s rugby match. Anyone with eyes can see that,” added another who typically doesn’t use their name on social media.

The problem here is that it’s not a man or a transgender woman, it is Joanne Lagona, a fullback with the PNG national team.

The post took a turn when Aidan Edgecomb, who is a 16-year-old Australian journalist according to his Twitter profile, decided to put Atherton in his place in no uncertain terms.

“Sick of these f**king transphobic and misogynistic idiots,” Edgecomb wrote in a quote tweet of the original post. “7.1k likes on this video and hundreds of idiot blue checks in the comments trans bashing and agreeing with it.

“Also feel for the biological women who are accused of being trans simply for having ‘masculine’ features.”

To its credit, X – which hardly has a reputation for fairness or balance – has allowed a community note on both posts which directly clarifies the situation, which of course Atherton could have done with even a modicum of research.

“The player is Joanne Lagona – a biological female player from Papua New Guinea, who has represented PNG in women’s rugby competitions for many years,” the note states.

“International Rugby League does not allow transgender participation in women’s rugby.”

It also includes some links including Lagona’s player profile on the NRL website and the laws of International Rugby League.

It’s a sad reality that Edgecomb’s post hasn’t gained anywhere near the reach of the original post.

But it has generated some support, including the below comment.

“Well said Aidan,” wrote Doug Bell, someone with no reason not to list their name on social media.

“Sadly this site can show the absolute worst of humanity and it often goes unchecked and unchallenged because when someone does, they get all that hate and vitriol turned on them instead.”