Two men have been charged by New South Wales police after allegedly sending NRL player Latrell Mitchell racially abusive messages on social media.
A 22-year-old man from Taree and a 25-year-old from Lake Munmorah were charged after an investigation from the Fixated Persons Investigation Unit and the Engagement and Hate Crime Unit commenced earlier this week.
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The NRL Integrity Unit had reported several offensive and threatening messages to police, a variety of which included racial abuse.
Both men charged were granted conditional bail, with the 25-year-old man to face Wyong Local Court on May 12 and the 22-year-old to front Taree Local Court on May 18.
South Sydney CEO Blake Solly praised Mitchell for his willingness to refer the disgusting messages to police.
“Racism is absolutely abhorrent and has no place in our game or society in general,” he said.
“We fully support Latrell’s decision to refer the abuse to the NSW Police.
"Latrell has shown great courage in taking this position, and I would encourage other NRL players who are subject to abuse of this nature to do the same thing.”
Mitchell spoke out about the constant barrage of abuse he puts up with back in 2020, telling the Daily Telegraph he'd considered quitting the NRL because of it.
“Honestly, I was that close to giving up,” he said.
“I thought, why don’t I just go get a nine-to-five job and not be in the spotlight?”
Sporting codes embrace new initiative in fight against online abuse
Meanwhile, the AFL has welcomed a move from social media giant Facebook that aims to protect players from online abuse, including racist messages on Instagram.
Working alongside sports anti-discrimination organisations like the UK's Kick it Out initiative, the Facebook-owned Instagram has developed tools aimed to protect high-profile individuals like athletes on the social media platform.
One is a new feature to filter out abusive direct message requests while another gives users the option to both block someone's Instagram account and simultaneously block new accounts that a person may create, therefore stopping them from continuing the harassment.
Carlton veteran Eddie Betts and West Coast gun Liam Ryan are among the players to have received racist messages or comments on Instagram, while earlier this month Western Bulldogs midfielder Josh Dunkley opened up about the truly vile messages he received during the team's slump in 2018.
AFL general manager of inclusion and social policy Tanya Hosch says the changes to the social media platform are a much-needed step.
"We have been working with Facebook Australia over the past year on the importance of protecting our players from abuse and harassment on Facebook and Instagram," Hosch said in a statement.
"With the announcement today, we feel like they've listened and taken a valuable step in the right direction.
"These new tools will make a significant difference in protecting our players and ensuring that their experience on Instagram is a positive one, whether that's connecting with their fans or sharing the great things about the sport.
"This is also a valuable update in supporting the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, and any other person who faces discrimination and hate speech, to have a safer and more positive experience online.
"There is more work to be done and we will be continuing to support Facebook and Instagram in developing more safeguards for the Australian community."
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