South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell says he hopes his stand against racism will inspire his NRL counterparts to “feel comfortable enough” to call out online abuse.
Mitchell has been at the centre of a number of targeted racist attacks on social media, which the 23-year-old admitted nearly forced him to walk away from the game last year.
Just last week two men were arrested for allegedly abusing the South Sydney star on social media. The men were taken to local police stations and both charged with use of a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.
Speaking to the media today, Mitchell admitted he was relieved to see the issue of racism being taken seriously.
“I’ve been copping this all my life since I was an eight-year-old kid. My ancestors before me have and nothing’s changed,” Mitchell told reporters.
“I’ve always aired them out on social media as everyone has seen and I think that’s what they wanted to get a kick out of.
“I was just wasting some energy by doing that.
“I grew up and mature a little bit through that period and said enough is enough.
“With these two messages, for instance, I had enough. I sent it off to my management and straight away the support was outstanding. How the Police have come into it, I can’t thank them enough also.
“It (the arrest) is an outcome that I’ve wanted for a very long time for people to be accountable for their actions and their words.
“Just for you to sit there and comment on a game, it’s just a game of rugby league. But this happens in every society and I want people to know that you have to call it out.”
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The former Rooster and two-time premiership winner said he hopes a new “process” will be put in place to encourage other NRL players to speak up.
“This is the standard that I’ve set and for anyone in the rugby league community or just in the general community just to call it out,” Mitchell added.
“I just wanted to set a process now … to make the boys in the NRL, feel comfortable enough if they receive these messages and to call it out.
“There’s going to be so much support, I back you.
“I’m doing it for all of us players, it’s just the thing that we have to do now.”
He said it wasn’t just about protecting NRL players, but rather standing up for members of the general public, who mightn’t respond well to online abuse.
“I think people are going to think twice now, because we’re going to work towards a process being in place for us rugby league players,” he said.
“It’s not even just the rugby league community we need to worry about, it’s about the general public, it’s about our wellbeing.
“It only takes that one message for someone not as strong as me … for them to go and do some self-harm. All it takes is one word and today I’m taking a stand on it and I want everyone out there to know they can stand up to it, too.
“I just don’t want to be known as just a rugby league player.”
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