MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian Football League (AFL) is investigating racial abuse on social media against four Indigenous Australian players.
Adelaide Crows player Izak Rankine reported being racially abused on Monday, while Fremantle's Michael Walters and Nathan Wilson, and Brisbane's Charlie Cameron reported similar abuse on Tuesday.
"This has to stop," AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told Australian media.
"It not only hurts the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players targeted but all Indigenous players and players of colour across the league as well as their families, their teammates and friends."
The AFL is the top flight of Australian Rules football.
Perth-based Fremantle said their players had been subjected to "vile, racist and homophobic abuse" on social media.
"Individuals that hide behind fake accounts to hurt others are pathetic and we need to be able to curb this capability on social platforms," Fremantle boss Simon Garlick said in a statement.
Western Bulldogs player Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was racially abused by a fan while playing a match against St Kilda last month.
After scoring a goal in the following game against Brisbane Lions, Ugle-Hagan raised his shirt and pointed to his skin in an echo of fellow Indigenous player Nicky Winmar's gesture three decades ago, a landmark moment in the fight against racism in Australian sport.
The AFL has worked hard to stamp out racism on the field and from fans at stadiums, but Aboriginal players regularly complain of being targeted by online trolls.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Robert Birsel)