South Sydney Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell has fronted media on Monday to take a stand against the abusive and racist online trolling of rugby league players.
Mitchell, who has continually spoken out against racism, spoke to media at Redfern Oval on Monday following the arrest of two men who had been sending the football star racist and abusive messages online.
The two men, including a 22-year-old from Mitchell’s hometown of Taree in New South Wales, were arrested on Friday and investigated by the Engagement and Hate Crime Unit and the Fixated Persons Investigation Unit.
Both men were charged with ‘use carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence’.
Mitchell, 23, said he felt fed up and decided to take action.
“It’s been a hard 24 months … it’s pretty sad to cop messages like I have. It’s not on,” he said.
“I had to find the courage and I’m not big on talking about myself. I’m always about others, but I wanted to make it clear that this stuff that goes on around social media and the public — it’s uncalled for. I say no to it and I want it to stop.
“We don’t need it in society … online bullying and cyber bullying.”
Latrell Mitchell speaks out against online trolls and bullies after receiving racially abusive messages on social media.
— South Sydney Rabbitohs 🐰 (@SSFCRABBITOHS) April 26, 2021
Mitchell told reporters that this wasn’t the first time he’d received such messages, rather it had been a continual issue for him.
“I’ve been copping this my whole life, since I was an eight-year-old kid.”
“My Ancestors before me have and nothing is changing. I always air them out on social media and give them airtime and I think that is what they sort of want — to get that kick out of it. I was wasting my energy doing that. I’ve grown up and matured during that period and enough is enough,” he said.
“I’ve set that standard for the general public to say right if you see it call it out.”
After receiving abusive messages from the two men, Mitchell forwarded the content onto his management team who then engaged police.
“With these two messages I’d had enough, I sent it off to my managers and asked for them to deal with it,” he said.
“It’s an outcome I’ve wanted for a very long time, for people to be accountable for their actions and their words … It’s exhausting, I don’t know how someone can stoop to that level and go out of their way just to send you a threat or hurtful message.
“We as rugby league players are here to do a job, enjoy ourselves and provide for our families. To receive that hate, I know it comes with the game, but it shouldn’t be in our game.”
Mitchell did not provide details on the content of the messages nor on the men who sent them due to the issue being before the court.
Sydney Roosters’ Josh Morris and Melbourne Storm’s Josh Addo-Carr have supported Mitchell’s stance against online trolling.
Former South Sydney Rabbitohs player Joe Williams also shared his support via Twitter.
“The clowns trying to justify racism based on the argument ‘It’s due to Latrell Mitchell’s infield behaviours’ — are right up there with the other idiots who justified Adam Goodes was boo’d [sic] because of his game,” Williams wrote.
“You are either against racism or for racism — take yr [sic] pick!!”
The clowns trying to justify racism based on the argument ‘it’s due to Latrell Mitchell’s infield behaviours’ – are right up their with the other idiots who justified Adam Goodes was boo’d because of his game..
You are either against racism or for racism – take yr pick!!
— Joe Williams – TEW (@joewilliams_tew) April 26, 2021
In taking a stand Mitchell hopes to inform and create a process for rugby league players to find support and easily access police services.
“I want a process in place where we feel comfortable enough as rugby league players to go to someone you know within the NRL that will take this on, put it forward and make people accountable,” he said.
“It’s time to change, we need to change this for everyone. It’s about being a community and coming together — not just about Aboriginal and non-Indigenous — it’s about us coming together as a rugby league community and just enjoying the game that we love.”
In response to questions around his choice to stand up, Mitchell said it was all in pursuit of being the man he wants to be.
“I have a role to play, I’ve always set out to be somebody,” he said.
“Standing up for this stuff is the person I want to be. I don’t want to be known as just a rugby league player.”
By Rachael Knowles