South Sydney’s coach has called for life bans after a teenager hurled sickening racial abuse at fullback Latrell Mitchell at Thursday’s NRL game against the Penrith Panthers.
Rabbitohs club officials said the fan targeted Mitchell with a racist comment as he walked up the tunnel to the dressing sheds at half-time at Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium.
The fan allegedly left the scene after the verbal attack. A man who had been sitting with him, believed to be his father, was ejected by security.
The spectator in question wore the jersey of an NRL club that did not feature in the fixture, according to the Rabbitohs.
The club intends to file a police report, but coach Jason Demetriou has demanded tougher action to “stamp it out completely”.
A proud Birrbay and Wiradjuri man, Mitchell has faced racial taunts in the past. In April 2021, two men were charged for sending him racially abusive social media messages.
The NRL confirmed that its integrity unit had already opened an investigation into the incident.
The Panthers are working with the NRL to investigate the incident, with the Rabbitohs determined in their pursuit of justice.
After the Rabbitohs’ 16-10 loss to the Panthers, Demetriou delivered an impassioned plea for the NRL to impose life bans.
“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.”
Demetriou said the club would take the issue “all the way”.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The Panthers released a brief statement to confirm they would assist the NRL in their investigation but did not provide further details.
“As far as I know, the club’s all over it,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.
“An investigation will take place.
“Hopefully they can all get to the bottom of it.”
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo condemned the incident in a statement of his own late on Thursday.
“Any form of racism or vilification will not be tolerated in our sport. We will not accept this behaviour from anyone,” Abdo said.
“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.”
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