Abdo vows to rid NRL of racism after Mitchell slur

NRL vows to protect players from racism

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has vowed to eradicate racism from the sport as he promised to sanction and educate any fan found to have abused Latrell Mitchell.

It came after vision emerged of Latrell and his Rabbitohs teammates and Penrith opponents reacting in the moments after they heard the abuse in Thursday night’s match.

But Abdo stopped short on Friday of promising a life ban for a teenage spectator accused of racially abusing Mitchell at Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium on Thursday night – while saying the game would come down hard on any offenders.

“The message to those outlying individuals is very clear – you are not welcome in our game,” Abdo said.

“You’re going to be called out, and not just by players but by fans and officials. We self-regulate in our game. And eventually it becomes eradicated.

“That has to be our goal and our vision.

“We will do all we can to make sure we leave the game better than we found it. And that means that these types of incidents are not occurring.”

Abdo confirmed the NRL’s integrity unit was working with NSW Police on the matter, with the investigation the game’s top priority.

Vision of the incident showed several South Sydney players reacting as they walked up the tunnel at halftime during the 16-10 loss, in the moments after a teenage fan reportedly called Mitchell a “black dog”. Journalists on the scene reported noticeable commotion and tension among the players from both sides.

“There were early suggestions whether there was a bit of abuse thrown at South Sydney players, but it quickly came out that it was actually racial abuse hurled at Latrell Mitchell, and naturally it affected not only Latrell but his teammates,” Daily Telegraph NRL writer Michael Carayannis told the ABC on Friday.

“You saw the reaction from the likes of Cody Walker and Damien Cook, and how instantly they became aware of what the situation and South Sydney officials immediately left to the defence of Latrell – and that’s how it was made to us.”

In the immediate fallout, Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou called for life bans for any offenders and their parents. He and Souths chief executive Blake Solly are furious their superstar fullback has been repeatedly subjected to abuse.

“This is a deeply disappointing situation, something that our players should never be subjected to,” Solly said on Friday.

“We feel as a club that the strongest possible action needs to be taken against the perpetrators.

“Latrell is a strong, proud Biripi man. He stands up for himself, his teammates, his club, his family and his people.

“This should never be discouraged by the actions of some people with archaic views.”

Latrell mitchell

Players and support crew mill about in the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s ugly incidence. Photo: 10 News First

Solly labelled the abuse as abhorrent and antiquated, and called for fans of all clubs to help stamp it out by immediately reporting any slur seen online or heard at a ground.

“If you’re a fan in the stands and you hear it, see it or read it, then call it out – just as the players from both teams responded to it in the tunnel at the time,” Solly said.

“This immediate response from Rabbitohs and Panthers players who heard the remark is the response everybody should take.”

Demetriou praised security on the scene, and police for identifying the culprit. But he insisted the incident would be followed up.

“We’ll go all the way, as far as we can with it,” he said.

“As a club, we’ll stand right behind Latrell and it’s just not on. As far as I’m concerned, we’ll take it as far as we can take it.”

A clearly angry Demetriou said it wasn’t the first time Rabbitohs players had been abused at the stadium.

“Where does it end? It’s not on. I shouldn’t have to be able to come here as a coach and lead a team of players who need to be racially abused,” he said.

“It’s not what our game is about. We have to stamp it out completely – NRL, clubs, they have to get rid of it. Life bans. Anyone who wants to give racial abuse, get them out of the game. We don’t want their support. It’s got to end.”

Mitchell’s former coach Trent Robinson – who is now in charge at Sydney Roosters – apologised to 25-year-old Mitchell on Friday morning, with the fan accused of the incident said to have been wearing a Roosters jersey.

“It’s really disappointing. We just don’t represent the Roosters in that way. It’s not how we want to act as Roosters,” Robinson said.

“Whether we like it or not, they were wearing our colours. We have to accept that. But it doesn’t mean they are a Rooster.”

Two fans who racially abused Greg Inglis at Bluebet Stadium in 2018 were handed indefinite bans from the NRL at the time.

– with AAP

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