In a country still blighted by sectarianism, where people advocate for better mental health awareness one day, then play their part in a 22-year-old being subjected to religious and homophobic abuse the next, Hibs manager Jack Ross says it is time to take a more even-handed approach to quelling toxic harangueing.
Highlighting the extent of the vituperation Ryan Porteous has been bombarded with in the 10 days since his sending off at Ibrox, which included a wish that he would die of a tumour, his manager said that while footballers accept that criticism comes with the job, the recent offerings have crossed a line.
“I've got no problem with people discussing any of my players' level of ability or something to do with a game but I think sometimes we can, not always intentionally, use language that is not entirely accurate,” he said.
“I can't say for certain whether that stokes a more aggressive reaction from people but I would hazard a guess that it doesn't help defuse any situation.
“I can listen to a programme and they'll talk about Ryan in certain terms and then the next night they're talking about the mental health of players. I mean, bloody hell.”
While there has, quite rightly, been a growing backlash against racist abuse, Ross says that should not mean that all other invective is swept under the carpet.
“A certain level of that abuse and banter is accepted but this undoubtedly goes beyond that.
“It is a dangerous road to go down if we start differentiating between different types of abuse and suggest people are affected in different ways.
“We have a long way to go in this country, particularly with sectarian abuse. It is still a big thing and I have seen that first hand with Ryan. It is not nice for a man of his age to go through.
“I can be oblivious to it at times because I’m not active on social media. My age and my job meant that I made the decision a few years ago not to be active on it and it’s quite easy for me, in my 40s, to discipline myself to do that. But Ryan is 22 so while people will say stay off it, don’t be visible, there are not many people in their 20s who don’t do it and I don’t think he should be told he shouldn’t use it for fear of receiving some of the abuse he received.
“I was purposefully aware of it because I spoke to him and I asked him to show me screenshots of some of the stuff he received and, to be honest, I was a little taken aback by it and by the venom behind it and the language used in the different types of abuse - sectarian and homophobic and people telling him to die. As I said, not particularly nice and I think that when it comes to that kind of abuse, reading it is sometimes harder than hearing it and he has had to deal with that for over a week and it’s important to highlight that.”