Karen Carney revealed she contemplated taking her own life after receiving abuse on Twitter.
The former England international has revealed how abuse she received in December affected her mental health.
Carney claimed Leeds United were promoted last season “because of Covid” – meaning the pause in action due to the coronavirus pandemic allowed their players vital rest ahead of the Championship run-in.
A clip of Carney speaking was tweeted by Leeds’ official Twitter account along with emojis and the caption “Promoted because of Covid. Won the league by 10 points”.
This prompted an angry response from some fans and Carney received a barrage of abusive messages, many of them sexist in nature, prompting her to delete her Twitter account.
The following day Leeds issued a statement condemning the abuse but did not apologise for the tweet, which was not deleted.
— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 29, 2020
And Carney revealed she felt “physically sick” and desperate as a result of the abuse.
She told BT Sport: “I came off air and got in the car and remember saying to the guy who drives us home ‘it’s kicking off’ and I felt physically sick.
“I was sat the whole night, until three or four in the morning, in this daze. It was horrible.
“I got a lot of stick for coming off of it (Twitter). Then you’ve got people around you saying stand up to it, banter back and have a bit of fun with it.
“The bottom line was to look after my mental health first. That was my priority.”
She continued: “It was relentless. I can’t even describe it. People that know me know this is the job we do and choose to do it, but I’m low key, a simple girl who loves football.
“I don’t want to be bombarded on social media platforms. It wasn’t for one hour, it was for three or four days and now it still comes up, people still send me abuse.
“Recently I’ve been on a lot of government calls with the social media platforms – but they don’t understand.
“The people in charge of social media say ‘we’re doing this, doing that’ but they don’t understand, I’m just a number.”
Love Island presenter Caroline Flack suffered abuse online and took her own life at the age of 40, in February 2020. And Carney, 33, revealed the abuse made her consider doing the same.
She added: “The only way I could make them understand was to say ‘do you want another Caroline Flack on your hands?’ Because that night that’s how I felt, and in that moment I could understand why she did what she did, because I could have gone to that place.
“It’s definitely changed me, the impact it’s had on me. I’ve seen it with other pundits, I’m not just speaking about myself.
“About four years ago I got online abuse when I was playing, death and rape threats, leukaemia and things like that.
“When it happened at Christmas it was another trigger and I don’t think my mental health has been the same since.
“My behaviour has changed. I’ve been highly stressed and it wasn’t clear until (Chelsea manager) Emma Hayes rang and said ‘you’ve changed’.
“People forget we’re human beings. It might be a bit of fun for you but there’s a lasting impact and it’s got to stop.”
As for solutions, Carney said: “I wouldn’t mind seeing people who’ve been abused going to work for those platforms. The best way is to keep putting the message out there to stop those messages at source.
“Just be nice to people and if you don’t like what we’re saying, just turn over. Don’t listen. There’s no need to go on and abuse someone.
“We’ve probably more power to do this today than sit on a government call. If we can stop people at home from doing it, that’s the quickest and easiest way.”