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Latrell Mitchell could walk away from NRL as ugly questions emerge about fan treatment

The South Sydney fullback was relentlessly booed by Bulldogs fans on Good Friday.

Questions are being asked about whether the treatment that Latrell Mitchell cops from NRL fans has become racially-motivated, and what it might mean for the remainder of his career. Mitchell has always been a polarising figure in the NRL world, but the booing he received from Bulldogs fans last weekend seemed to take on a sinister new meaning.

Mitchell is often booed by fans of former club the Roosters, especially after his ugly hit on Joey Manu in 2021. But last Friday we saw Bulldogs fans relentlessly booing him from the start of the match - seemingly for no particular reason at all.

Latrell Mitchell, pictured here in action for the Rabbitohs.
Latrell Mitchell was relentlessly booed by Bulldogs fans. Image: Getty

Mitchell was involved in a nasty incident with Josh Addo-Carr in which the Bulldogs winger was concussed and played no further part in the game. But the booing had started long before that, and seemed to come about for no other reason than the fact Mitchell was playing.

The treatment of Mitchell has always sparked memories of the way fellow Indigenous athlete Adam Goodes was booed out of the AFL at the back end of his career. Goodes was mercilessly booed by opposition fans every time he touched the ball until he decided to walk away from the AFL in 2015.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the treatment of Goodes became racially-motivated - and it only intensified after he took exception to being called an ape by a 13-year-old Collingwood fan during a game. The AFL later admitted it didn't do enough to support Goodes and should've attempted to stop the booing.

Has the booing of Latrell Mitchell become racially-motivated?

And the same situation appears to be occurring with Mitchell. The South Sydney fullback has previously likened the treatment he receives to that of Goodes, saying in 2022: “Adam Goodes gave up his career because of it (the booing).

“It’s not nice because we cop it every day as it is, and regardless of what happens on the field, it stays on the field. They (fans) have control over what they do off (the field) when they come watch a game. They can be passionate, but there are different ways on the spectrum of that."

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As leading NRL journalist Dean Ritchie highlighted this week: "When the hostility towards one player – who happens to be Indigenous – becomes sustained and deep-seated, we have a problem. Why aren’t white players jeered as relentlessly as Mitchell has been? I cannot recall the last white player who was singled out for the same treatment."

Latrell Mitchell, pictured here in action for the Rabbitohs against the Bulldogs.
Latrell Mitchell in action for the Rabbitohs against the Bulldogs. (Getty Images)

South Sydney CEO Blake Solly told The Daily Telegraph he hopes the booing of Mitchell isn't racially-motivated. “I can’t really explain the motivations for those who boo Latrell but like everyone in the game you hope it isn’t because of his race or his principled stance against racism.

“Booing on that basis would be completely against the values of our sport. Latrell is one of the most popular players at our club and won the NRL’s Ken Stephen Medal last season. His contribution to the sport on and off the field will long outlast the booing.”

But according to Indigenous icon Laurie Daley, that's the sad reality. “I’d like to believe there’s no racism in sport, but you know a minority of people, they carry it around with them. There’s a minority of people that carry that grudge and hate the fact he’s an Indigenous person that speaks his mind

“Latrell, given that he is outspoken, about all issues in the game and particularly racism, I think a lot of people are waiting for him to fail and fall. And will be critical of him.”

Latrell Mitchell could retire from NRL if poor treatment persists

As Rabbitohs teammate Damien Cook pointed out last year, the NRL is in serious danger of losing Mitchell to the game if the poor treatment continues. "When you're a superstar player and you're so big to the game, this stuff continues to happen," Cook said in August.

"You don't want to force a player like that into early retirement because he's just sick of it. You never know when enough is enough for some players. He'd have to be the most talked about player in the game and we've got to protect him."