Leeds have condemned online abuse aimed at Karen Carney after a club tweet questioned her comments as a pundit.
Carney said Leeds “out-run” opponents and an enforced rest as football paused during the Covid-19 pandemic aided their promotion push last season.
The Women in Football group said Leeds’ tweet was “inappropriate”.
Club owner Andrea Radrizzani had defended the tweet, before the club said it “completely condemns” any abuse Carney had received on social media.
“Everyone at our club respects Karen greatly for all she has achieved in the game, as well as her work in the media and the charity work she undertakes,” the Premier League club said.
Carney, who won 144 England caps, made her comments during Tuesday’s Amazon Prime broadcast of Leeds’ 5-0 win over West Brom in the Premier League.
Football in the UK was on hold between March and June because of the coronavirus pandemic and Carney, 33, said of Leeds: “They out-run everyone and credit to them. My only concern would be will they blow up at the end of the season?
“We saw that the last couple of seasons. I actually think they got promoted because of Covid in terms of it gave them a bit of respite. I don’t know if they would have got up if they didn’t have that break.”
Leeds won the Championship by 10 points in 2019-20. They won seven and drew one of their nine Championship matches when football resumed in June following the initial Covid-19 lockdown. They had won six and drawn one of their nine fixtures before the lockdown.
Leeds’ tweet sharing footage of Carney’s comments tagged the account of Amazon Prime, for whom she works as a pundit. Former player Rio Ferdinand was among those who called on the club to delete the post, which has been retweeted 11,500 times.
Others in the media said the tweet was inflammatory and would invite criticism of former Birmingham, Arsenal and Chelsea winger Carney on social media.
Tennis commentator David Law tweeted: “Did you really need to tweet something like this and invite a pile-on?”
French journalist Philippe Auclair wrote: “To publish such a tweet on an official club account was already questionable, to say the least. To keep it there when its target is receiving abuse which was prompted by your tweet is simply wrong.”
Radrizzani, replying to a tweet which said Leeds should be “ashamed” of their actions, wrote: “I take the responsibility of the club tweet.
“I consider that comment [from Carney] completely unnecessary and disrespectful to our club and particularly to the fantastic hard work of our players and coaches.”
The Women in Football group tweeted: “Whether you agree with the comment or not, singling out and ridiculing an individual on an official club account is not what we’re here for. Karen Carney is a well-informed pundit. This tweet is inciteful and inappropriate. Not a good look now, or at any time.”
Brighton defender Ben White – an ever-present on loan at Leeds last season – shared footage of Carney’s comments along with ‘laughing’ emojis.
Leeds’ win over West Brom lifted them to 11th in the Premier League with 23 points from 16 games.
Only six newly-promoted teams in Premier League history have picked up more victories than Leeds’ seven at this stage of a campaign.