Penalised: Brock McLean.

Penalised: Brock McLean. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

THE Carlton Football Club does not have a proud history when it comes to handling player behaviour, but in the case of Brock McLean and his misguided tweet, the Blues were absolutely right in refusing to suspend him.

Almost eight hours of tense negotiations flowed between head office and Visy Park yesterday.

The view of AFL football operations general manager Adrian Anderson and his team was that McLean's abusive tweet deserved the same penalty as the Western Bulldogs' Will Minson, a player accused of an obscene exchange in which he allegedly said he had forced himself upon Port Adelaide player Danyle Pearce's mother.

The view of the Blues' football boss, Andrew McKay, and club chief executive Greg Swann was that McLean deserved a fine of up to $2500. They placed his misdemeanour on a par with his three teammates who criticised the umpires in the recent West Coast win over the Blues.

In fact, the club challenged the AFL to suspend McLean, refusing to cave in. They were told he could be forced to front the tribunal. Surely either of the above would have been a savage case of overkill.

''It just wasn't right in our view,'' said Swann. ''We felt it deserved a fine of $2000, $2500, and we've spoken to McLean and we've told him not to do anything like that again.

''We weren't going to suspend him. He was completely honest about what he'd done and he removed the comment quickly and he apologised. In the end we've put an end to it and he can train and move on from this.''

Swann agreed that McLean had been ''living on the edge'' where his social media behaviour had been concerned, and that he had been spoken to previously by the club. He also agreed than any suspended match penalty made sense because ''if he did something like this again he deserves to be suspended''.

The AFL view last night was that McLean was extremely lucky. A terse Anderson made that clear.

It is certainly true that Carlton footballers can now be classed as repeat offenders where tweeting is concerned. The Blues, who must now work with McLean and the AFL's respect and responsibility officer, Sue Clark, in an education program, should surely take a look at themselves and their players' tendency to tweet first and think later.

But even the $5000 fine, agreed to last night, seems heavy-handed. McLean did not threaten or imply sexual assault. Surely his stupid retort to a question about whether or not he had been delisted - ''No, your mum has given me aids'' - was just simply stupid.

There was no sensitivity regarding the anonymous tweeter's mother, and surely no one suffering from AIDS would have taken serious offence.

Certainly there was no suggestion of sexual assault or harassment or bullying, as Port Adelaide suggested of Minson - a suggestion Minson denied but chose not to challenge at the tribunal.

And the fine doubled those of the umpire comments - a complete no-go area where the AFL is concerned.

Perhaps the AFL still regrets - as it should - not overruling Adelaide two years ago when former Crow Nathan Bock was only suspended for a week after being charged with assault when he poured a drink over, and hit - with an open hand, his girlfriend.

The good news for McLean is that - and this should not have mitigated his penalty - his career stood a better chance last night than it did early yesterday.

He will play tomorrow night against Hawthorn and every senior game provides him with the chance to win another season.

Which perhaps is one reason why his social media behaviour has been so angry. Perhaps the Blues feel vaguely responsible that they did not come down on him harder, and sooner. But not with a one-match suspension. That would have been embarrassing.