By deleting her Twitter account by storm over her comments on Leeds United, Karen Carney has argued that women in football are special cases that cannot be contradicted for fear of being offended.

So-called “soccer Twitter” can be as brutal and unforgiving as any other place in the digital realm.

Expert, former gamer, journalist, or mere fan, anyone who dares to express an opinion is instantly open to attack, ridicule, or far worse from the ruthless tribal rivalries that continue to populate the game.

From BBC figurehead Gary Lineker to Qatar-based castoff Richard Keys to Sky Sports double act Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher – experts of all kinds will inevitably receive flak when they stick their heads over the parapet.

Some of this is good-natured, but some of it is not, and it plumbs the depths of the all-too-occasional abuse that you’ll easily find elsewhere on social media.

One person who is no longer on Twitter is former Chelsea, Arsenal and England female star Carney after the Amazon Prime expert deleted her account after a spate of criticism and insults for pointing out that Leeds United was was only promoted to the Premier League because of Covid. ”

It was a dubious comment that was happily picked up by the club, who shared the clip of Carney’s remarks on their official Twitter account along with a “Thinking Face” emoji and consideration for winning the championship 10 points last Season.

It may have been a bit of a dig, and the kind of vengeful sniffing you’d expect from fan accounts rather than the Twitter admin of a Premier League club, but Leeds had every right to do it, as Carney was to express their opinion in the first place.

By the time Leeds steadfastly refused to delete the tweet and chairman Andrea Radrizzani accused Carney of making “disrespectful” comments, the dispute had already grown into a full-blown scandal that included attitudes towards women in football.

Even when the club later condemned the abuse that was being hurled in Carney’s direction, Leeds only left itself open to allegations that it cares about the expert’s welfare.

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However, if you dive deeper, you will find that Leeds’ actions throughout this saga contain much less hypocrisy than the complaints of those who suggested that the club launched some kind of misogynistic campaign against Carney.

The problem with many in the arms of Leeds’ reaction to Carney’s comments is that they fail to see the blinding irony of demanding an equal presence of women in all of football while craving special treatment for female experts when your opinions are controversial and rightly scrutinized (or, as Heaven forbids, ridiculed).

By choosing to withdraw from the fight instead of calling Leeds or simply reaffirming her original views, Carney has now increased the perception that she is too vulnerable to disagree.

Experts, whether male or female, need thicker skin than most because of their profession. They also need to be willing to stand by their opinions when necessary – after all, that’s what they’re paid for.

Carney has received high praise for her insights throughout her Panditry work, and her thoughts are as valid as those of her male counterparts.

However, given her high-profile role and what is expected of her, she should be scrutinized – and criticized if necessary – as Lineker or Neville do every day.

Carney cannot start a barb at Leeds and then withdraw without speaking for herself, sheltered by those who are essentially suggesting that because of her gender, she should be sacrosanct.

As for the sexist abuse Carney has received – of which there has undoubtedly been a lot – anyone who resorts to misogynistic tropes and “kitchen sink” talk doesn’t deserve the time of day anyway.

Leeds didn’t bend down on those levels with their tweet, merely digging up an admittedly cheap expert who they believed had insulted their club.

Imagine, if you will, if the clip didn’t include Carney, but instead showed an expert and former Leeds striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who behind the scenes agreed with Carney.

Would Leeds have got half as much vitriol if he had attacked a male expert? Of course not. Instead, it would have been due to some trivial type of soccer joke and everyone would have moved on within 90 minutes.

I take responsibility for the club tweet. I think this comment is completely unnecessary and disrespectful to our club and especially to the fantastic hard work of our players and coaches, who have understood all the statistics on the pitch in the last two championship seasons

– Andrea Radrizzani (@andrearadri) December 29, 2020

After responding to Leeds’ tweet, Carney already had parts of the court’s public opinion in her favor and would have received widespread support had she fought around her corner.

Instead, by escaping Twitter in the face of mindless trolls, she has bolstered the notion that female experts deserve some sort of dispensation in the rough and ready world of football experts.

This reveals the double standards of many who advocate greater representation of women in the game. Their message is that women’s views need to be heard equally but not equally challenged.

We have to step on eggshells when an expert says something arguable or wrong for fear of being labeled a misogynist.

This is certainly just as patronizing as the Twitter thugs who pointlessly abuse Carney, and just as little helps advance the cause of women in football.

Posted by Liam Tyler