Andrew Abdo hits back as NRL savaged over response to Latrell Mitchell drama

The NRL's decision not to sanction Mitchell has raised eyebrows around the game.

Andrew Abdo says criticism levelled at the NRL over its response to the Latrell Mitchell interview controversy is wide of the mark. Mitchell's expletive-laden live radio interview after the round two loss to Brisbane was condemned around the game. So too was the NRL's decision not to sanction the star, with many describing it as a "disgraceful" failure from the game's governing body.

NRL 360 hosts Braith Anasta and Paul Kent echoed the thoughts of many angry fans on Monday night by questioning why Mitchell hadn't been sanctioned over the foul-mouthed outburst. The Souths superstar said during the interview that he knew he was swearing but didn't care, with league great Corey Parker suggesting it if were another player, the NRL would have slapped him with a fine at the very least.

Pictured right to left is NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and Latrell Mitchell.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has defended the decision not to sanction Latrell Mitchell over his foul-mouthed interview. Pic: Getty

Roosters star Brandon Smith sparked uproar for an equally foul-mouthed spray on a podcast in 2021, while Cronulla forward Toby Rudolf was warned for making degrading comments towards women during an interview on Fox Sports in the same season. Neither player was sanctioned over either incident.

It's a fact Adbo is keen to stress after suggestions from critics that the NRL are afraid to sanction Mitchell because of his standing in the game and how it might affect their image. Many fans have accused the NRL of treating Mitchell differently to other players, with the Rabbitohs superstar also avoiding sanction for commenting on the length of ban Spencer Leniu should receive for calling Ezra Mam a "monkey", before the case was heard by the NRL judiciary.

NRL CEO says Latrell Mitchell treated like any other player

Abdo says any suggestions Mitchell is treated differently to other players is nonsense. “That’s quite a bold statement to make and we’ve proven over the past that when a player breaches the rules and we believe it warrants a breach action, we take it,” the NRL CEO said at the launch of Multicultural Round in Parramatta.

“Equally, we’ve been accused of being too harsh on players. Everyone will have their view on that. I’m really comfortable with where this sits and I’m comfortable with the action that we’re taking at the moment. Everyone has their opinions and that’s what we love about our game. Everyone has their views and are passionate about them, and I respect that completely."

Seen here, Latrell Mitchell in action for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL.
Latrell Mitchell in action for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. (Getty Images)

The NRL CEO all but confirmed reports he will sit down with Mitchell at Souths headquarters this week to discuss some of his behaviour. But Abdo says it's simply part of his job to meet up with some of the superstars of the game every now and then to discuss "issues confronting the game".

Mitchell's teammates Jack Wighton and Cameron Murray both defended the Souths star after days of backlash and some pretty extraordinary personal attacks over the interview. Mitchell finally broke his silence by responding to a quote from Murray on social media by writing: "There was no intent. No malice. Let's move on."


Latrell Mitchell interview earns Phil Gould criticism

It came after veteran NRL commentator Phil Gould suggested that Mitchell's actions are a result of him not being reined in earlier in his career. Gould also said if the Rabbitohs superstar wanted the respect of others, then he needed to show that same level of respect when conducting himself off the field and in the media.

Pictured right is Phil Gould and Latrell Mitchell on the left.
Phil Gould says Latrell Mitchell should have been pulled in line earlier after his expletive-laden interview sparked controversy. Pic: Getty

"I said very early in his career, if you don't pull him into line now you're never going to be able to and I think that Latrell Mitchell has become bigger than some of the people that are trying to control him," Gould said on Nine's 100% Footy. "For Latrell the only advice I would have at the moment is that if he wants to be outspoken, if he wants to be heard - and he does want to be heard, he demands respect from everybody on all sorts of fronts, he speaks out openly on a number of issues, demanding respect - you also have to show respect...

"You don't swear, it's as simple as that. For him to do that is a total lack of respect, a lack of respect for his teammates, for the game, for the media, and the people that are listening at home wanting to see how he felt after that game." The NRL CEO agreed that while players are encouraged to be themselves and speak about their passions, they must do so respectfully.

“We’re encouraging players to be themselves and be authentic and genuine, but I’ll go back to the word I used earlier, with ‘respect’," Abdo said. “We expect our players to set a good example, and clearly, using bad language is an example of what we don’t want our players to do... I’ve heard Latrell acknowledge the fact that he does regret that, and I will have a chat with him in due course.”

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