The NRL has opened an investigation into claims Latrell Mitchell was racially abused during South Sydney's loss to Penrith at BlueBet Stadium on Thursday night. The Rabbitohs fullback was reportedly called a 'black dog' by a spectator as he was leaving the field at half-time in the match.
South Sydney officials told reporters the spectator targeted Mitchell as he was walking up the tunnel and into the dressing sheds. The fan, who is reportedly a teenager, allegedly left the scene after making the comment. However a man who had been sitting with him, believed to have been his father, was ejected by security.
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The spectator in question was reportedly wearing an NRL jersey - but not that of the Panthers or Rabbitohs. The NRL confirmed to AAP on Thursday night that the Integrity Unit had already opened an investigation into the incident.
South Sydney officials also said they intend to file a police report about the matter. The Panthers said in a statement: "The NRL was immediately informed of the alleged matter, and the club will work with the NRL to investigate."
A proud Birrbay and Wiradjuri man, Mitchell has been subjected to racial taunts a number of times in the past. In April 2021, two men were charged for sending him racially abusive messages on social media.
Discussing the incident in his post-match press conference, Souths coach Andrew Demetriou was fuming. "This is not something Latrell just cops on the footy field, this is something he's had to deal with his whole life. All Indigenous people do," Demetriou said.
"I can't get my head around it to be honest, I don't understand in Australia how anyone can be raised like that. There has to be hard and fast rules, if anyone comes close to getting racial they are completely ruled out of our game. If it's a young kid, pull his parents out as well. It's just not on.
"From what I understand, security have done a great job identifying who it is, the club has done a great job of identifying who it is and now we'll take it through the police. We'll go all the way, as far as we can with it. As a club, we'll stand right by Latrell. It's just not on. As far as I'm concerned, we go as far as we can take it."
NRL boss condemns abuse of Latrell Mitchell
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary later said: "As far as I know, the club's all over it. An investigation will take place. Hopefully they can all get to the bottom of it."
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo condemned the incident in a statement of his own on Thursday night. He said: "Any form of racism or vilification will not be tolerated in our sport. We will not accept this behaviour from anyone.
"We are working with the stadium and the club to get all the facts. The Integrity Unit will investigate fully. We will stand behind our players and commend them for calling out this behaviour."
Fans and commentators have been left disgusted by the incident. Speaking on Channel 9 on Friday morning, Today presenter Brooke Boney said: “As the only Indigenous person (on the panel) I just want to jump in and I want to say that racism in sport, racism everywhere has to stop.
“To be able to go to work and do your job is something that everyone should be able to do. Latrell Mitchell is a big boy, he can look after himself, but nobody should have to go to work and be abused - that’s disgusting. It is not just Latrell going out on the field, it is kids at home watching this as we report it, seeing comments on Facebook when the clip gets posted, it is disgusting and it has to stop - it is making people sick.”
The Panthers won the match 16-10 to register their first win of the season. The reigning premiers were fired up to silence their critics after a slow start to the new season, with Mitchell declaring during the week that there were a few "cracks in the windshield" at Penrith.
Wonderfully said by Jason but it’s absolutely crazy, disgusting and disgraceful that indigenous players still have to go through this. Rugby league should be a safe place of everyone. Feeling for Latrell.
— Sachin Kelsen (@kelsen_sachin) March 9, 2023
As they should. Racism is unacceptable.
— Jaz: 🧛♀️ ISO Fang Daddy 🧛♂️ (@KaraAbheri1) March 9, 2023
— HEAD COACH 23 (@Headcoach_23) March 9, 2023
It’s a disgraceful act... no place for anything of that Nature anywhere. And not something I want associated with Penrith fans, when it wasn’t a Penrith fans at all. That’s all.
Latrell is the victim here 100%. Beyond disgusting.
— Ben Kirkham (@p_starter) March 9, 2023
Absolutely disgusting to hear Latrell Mitchell subject to more racial abuse by opposition fans. Be better you dickheads https://t.co/zkbHKcOMjr
— Hayley (@Hayleyyemma) March 9, 2023
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