Riders suffer wishes of death and broken legs in web abuse
Tom Scudamore: "What we're dealing with are faceless keyboard warriors"
PICTURE: Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos) Riders suffer wishes of death in web abuse By Lee Mottershead 10:47AM 19 JAN 2017
THE extent to which jockeys suffer social media abuse was highlighted again on Wednesday when Tom Scudamore revealed a critic last weekend wished him dead.
Despite that, the rider of jumping superstar Thistlecrack believes jockeys should avoid becoming "too precious" in the face of online vitriol, which Flat rider Lewis Edmunds this week confronted head on after one of his fancied mounts proved reluctant to race.
Following a Racing Post article in which Kate Tracey, the girlfriend of Ciaran Gethings, responded to attacks he had received after recently being unseated at Hereford, a number of jockeys have spoken of their experiences at the hands of internet trolls. Tracey linked social media abuse with "mental torment and distress" in jockeys, arguing: "We should be praising the talent these brave people possess and celebrating it. Maybe then the bigger issues of mental disorders might diminish."
Offering his experiences, Scudamore said: "I generally ignore it. I did have someone over the weekend who said he hoped I died, so I replied to that one, but most of it makes me laugh. What we’re dealing with here are faceless keyboard warriors. That’s all they are.
"I agree with many of the points in the Racing Post article but I also think we shouldn’t get too precious.
"Doing what we do, we have to accept criticism. When that criticism steps over the line and becomes personal abuse, that’s wrong, but you also need to have a thick skin. Imagine what someone like John Barnes was getting back in the 1980s.
"On this occasion the level of criticism has been over the top, but I also strongly feel the BHA should have come out and said they were happy with the ride."
Edmunds took to Twitter on Tuesday night, writing: "Sorry to those that backed Dutch Art Dealer in the 3.05 at Kempton. He refused to race. I won on him last time out and that wasn’t like him."
'Abuse can hit jockeys hard'
Explaining his motives, Edmunds, who had seen "a couple of negative things" before posting the tweet, said: "People assume when a horse doesn’t start the jockey is crooked and doesn’t want to win.
"As punters put so much money into the sport I wanted to give them a better understanding of what had happened, so I went on Twitter. The response was positive, with people saying it hadn’t been my fault.
"As jockeys we do get a lot of swearing abuse, but I’m hard-skinned. Some others, though, aren’t so outgoing and are more in their own shell. For them, that sort of abuse can hit them hard."
Thankfully not hit hard is Danny Mullins, which is a good thing given he is occasionally berated not only for his own rides but for those of a cousin. "I do get some abuse," said Mullins. "Unfortunately I get some of David’s abuse as well! They mix us up sometimes, although I also got a few messages of congratulations for winning the Grand National.
"It doesn’t really bother me. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I’m entitled to think some of them are clowns.
"Most of them are cowards and I certainly wouldn’t go to them for sound advice. If my parents, Willie [Mullins, his uncle] or one of the senior jockeys criticised me I would take it on board, but someone I don’t respect can say what they like."
'They are sad people'
Jamie Moore believes footballers receive worse treatment than jockeys. "Every jockey gets that sort of abuse but I think every sportsman does," he said. "It’s part of life nowadays and you just have to deal with it.
"People say some terrible things, like wanting you to break your legs the next time you fall off. They are sad people. I would love to meet them in the street because I’d knock them out."