Kellie Harrington: ‘Why I’m quitting social media’
Under-fire Olympic winner Kellie Harrington has closed her Facebook account and says she is stepping back from the online world
Olympic champion Kellie Harrington has closed her Facebook account and is stepping away from social media.
“Slowly but surely I am starting to detox off the social media world. It is a lifestyle choice.
“There is a lot of negative stuff out there as well as positive stuff. But I’m coming across a lot of negative stuff. And I said I’m out of here, starting with Facebook,” she said.
Harrington was speaking just hours before becoming embroiled in a major controversy during an interview on Newstalk’s Off the Ball programme.
Asked by presenter Shane Hannon whether she had ‘strongly held views on immigration’ after quote tweeting a post by Dutch commentator Eva Vlaardingerbroek detailing the death of a 12 year old girl by immigrants in France, Harrington refused to answer the question.
Kellie Harrington has issued a statement following her spat with a radio journalist over a controversial tweet about immigrants she posted and subsequently deleted last year.
The Olympic boxing champion had been speaking to Shane Hannon on Newstalk’s OTB on Monday when she accused the presenter of “hanging her out to dry” after he refused to move on from the topic of her tweet referencing a 12-year-old girl in France who was “killed by an immigrant”.
The awkward interview saw Hannon press Harrington on the tweet and the subjects of immigration and diversity, with Harrington asking, “Is that what you want to waste time on?” before her PR representative jumped in and encouraged the conversation to move on.
Taking to social media on Monday night, Kellie shared a statement addressing the OTB interview, where she said she doesn’t want to “engage in politically sensitive matters”.
She wrote: “Last October, I reposted a tweet of a video from a journalist (whom I did not know at the time) detailing the story of a young girl in France who was kidnapped and murdered.
“Moved by the horrific circumstances of this story, I reposted a video of this journalist together with a copy of a quote. My thoughts at that moment were of that young girl and not any political opinion.
“Having realised the significance of my tweet and the hurt caused to a number of people I immediately deleted the tweet. I engaged privately with a number of people who were hurt by my tweet and I apologised to them.
A statement following my interview earlier with OTB pic.twitter.com/FGuO3w7Wwe— Kellie Harrington (@Kelly64kg) March 27, 2023
“As a sporting role model, I am aware that I need to be mindful of what I do and say. I reacted with my emotion and without the facts. How this came across is not reflective of me as a person or my thoughts”.
The sportswoman continued: “I did an interview today during which I was caught off guard. I was not prepared for a question unrelated to sport and my response to the question asked was not definitive.
“I do not want to engage in politically sensitive matters.
“What I want to make clear is, throughout my life both in boxing and outside boxing, I have been lucky enough to have had many multicultural influences and this continues to shape me to this day.
“This is something I am very grateful for. The people closest to me will attest to this.
“Since the interview, I have seen some comments that I feel I should address and make my feelings and thoughts clear.
“As a sportswomen (sic) I am proud to say I am all about community, inclusion and diversity”.
Hannon and Harrington butted heads on the podcast after he asked her if she still maintained “strongly held views on immigration”, referencing the tweet she subsequently deleted last October after she reposted a GB News videoin which Dutch commentator Eva Vlaardingerbroek spoke about the killing of a 12-year-old French girl whose mutilated body was found stuffed in a suitcase in Paris.
Kellie Harrington discussed her deleted tweet on immigration on #OTBAM. pic.twitter.com/cerleODJNa— Off The Ball (@offtheball) March 27, 2023
In response to the clip, which claimed that the young girl was “sacrificed on the altar of mass migration”, Harrington tweeted: “Very, very sad. A powerful message from Eva Vlaardingerbroek. Our own leaders need to take a listen to this. She believes this is the 12th girl in France this year who has been killed by an immigrant.. And that’s just France.”
The tweet was deleted a short time later.
Responding to Hannon’s question, Harrington said: “So I feel right now at the moment that you are trying to hang me out to dry so for that I’ll say ‘next question.’
Hannon, however, stuck to his guns and said, “The discussion, Kellie, just needs to be had,” to which she replied: “That was a post in October so I do feel like you are trying to hang me out to dry. You know me by now and you know you’re going to get the truth off me and that’s exactly the truth as it is as I’m sitting here now. I feel like you’ve brought that to try and bring up a bit of controversy.”
The debate continued, with Hannon continuing to probe and Harrington responding: “Is that what you want to waste time on? There are so many other questions that you could ask me. I’m not a politician, you know what I mean?”
The Dubliner, clearly frustrated, also said Hannon was “like a dog with a bone” after she and her public relations handler shut down the discussion once again.
“If you’re not hanging me out to dry, let it go, move on. Be like Elsa and just let it go, do you know what I mean? Don’t hold it back anymore, just let it go and move on.”
Mr Hannon said it was his job to ask questions, but the boxer refused to be drawn.
“I’m not here to answer those questions. I’m not here to talk about politics, like if I wanted to do that I’d go and get a degree in politics, she said, adding “I don’t know what agenda you have Shane, It’s obviously not a good one.”
She ended the interview with a farewell salute, stating: “Over and out. I’m done.”
“That was a post in October, so I do feel that you are hanging me out to dry,” she said.
After further tense exchanges, during which she again declined to address the specific question, the interview concluded. The clip quickly went viral and the Olympic champ was forced into a statement later that night.
“Last October, I reposted a tweet of a video from a journalist (whom I did not know at the time) detailing the story of a young girl in France who was kidnapped and murdered.”
She went on to say: “As a sporting role model, I am aware that I need to be mindful of what I do say. I reacted with my emotions and without the facts. How this came across is not reflective of me as a person or my thoughts. As a sportswoman, I am proud to say I am all about community, inclusivity and diversity.”
Speaking before the controversy erupted across the media, Kellie had admitted the prospect of doing Monday’s interviews was more stressful than getting married and buying a house.
She and her wife Mandy recently purchased a house close to her parents’ home on Portland Row in Dublin north inner city. The property is currently being renovated.
“It is still a work in progress. It depends on the type of person you are whether you get stressed about these kind of things. I’m laid back enough.
“It is not as hard as people say unless you are high maintenance and I’m definitely not that.”
Even though the boxing world is in turmoil with doubts over its future in the Olympics, Harrington has the ability to block out what she describes as ‘white noise’ and focus on what she can control.
“I am quite selfish when it comes to sport. I just focus on myself and I don’t worry about anything else or anybody else. I just do what I have to do and that’s what I’m doing now.
“I am getting ready for the [European Olympic] qualifiers in June and if I let anything distract me it takes me off track. I need to be at my absolute best in June. I cannot let any outside noise interfere with my life.”
She insists retaining her Olympic lightweight title in Paris in 2024 is ‘very unimportant’ to her right now.
“I don’t look that far forward. I’m just looking to qualify. Paris is where I want to be but obviously to get there I need to qualify.
“I don’t overlook that because anybody can crawl out of the woodwork and anyone can have a very good day. There’s lot of people coming up behind me. I am the one with the target on my back in the 60kg [category].
“I am not looking to retain anything. I’m looking to qualify in whatever fashion I can, whether it’s nice or whether it’s messy. I just need to get across that line. Then we move on and start looking at a bigger picture again.”
But the global conflicts in amateur boxing did impact on her when the Irish Athletic Boxing Association boycotted the recent women’s World Boxing championships in India in protest at alleged corruption in the International Boxing Association.
It meant Kellie missed out on the possibility of winning a World title and collecting $100,000 in prize money. In her absence, Brazilian Beatrix Ferreira — who she beat in the Olympic final in Tokyo in 2021 — won her third world title in the lightweight division.
“Missing out on the World’s not too bad, missing out on a hundred grand very bad,” she jokes. “Having been there and done that [she won a World title in 2018], missing out on it is not such a bad thing. The European qualifier in Poland in June is the big thing for this year.”
In Kellie’s own words, she is no longer a ‘spring chicken’ and the 33-year-old has to train smarter.
“I am actually doing things differently as I am not getting any younger. I have got to mind myself. So I have got to take recovery into account and obviously I can’t be out fighting every two or three weeks either. I’m still training hard, but I train smart as well.”
Making the weight remain struggle. “The weight, oh Jesus Christ. Everything is going against me. Making weight is never easy. But as you get older your clock starts to slow down a bit. You have to try and take yourself away from the biscuit press.”
Away from the boxing ring, her autobiography Kellie, which she wrote with the help of best-selling author Roddy Doyle, give her an unexpected personal bonus.
“The biggest thing from the book was the number of people who reached out to me and told me how they wanted a second chance in life. “They were stuck in a dark place but reading the book had really helped them. I always wanted the book to be more than just a sport book and knowing my story helped people lifted me,” she said.
Kellie was speaking at the launch of the €60,000 SPAR 60th Community Fund. Through the fund, six local community clubs, groups or programmes will be rewarded with €10,000 each, along with the chance to meet the Olympic Champion and take her on in a fun series of challenges. For more information and to be in with a chance to win, visit spar.ie
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