Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell held a media conference on Monday during which he addressed the abusive messages he was allegedly sent on Instagram last week.
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Mitchell, who is serving a four-match suspension, told reporters he had to “find the courage” to speak out about the alleged abuse.
“I’m not big on talking about myself, I’m always about others, and I just wanted to make it clear that this stuff that goes on social media and in the public, it’s uncalled for. I say no to it, I want it to stop,” the Souths and NSW State of Origin star said.
“It only takes that one message for someone not as strong as me that can’t take the criticism for them to go and do some self-harm. That’s all it takes, one word. Today I’m taking a stand on it.
“I just want everyone out there to know that you can stand up to it too. I just want to send a message out there that I thank you for the support I’ve received over the last couple of days.
“I’m setting the standard now that this is not on. If you see it, call it out.”
Following a tip-off from the NRL Integrity Unit, police charged two NSW mid-north coast men, aged 22 and 25, over the abusive messages last week.
Mitchell said he was pleased the alleged perpetrators had been held “accountable for their actions and their words”.
“This happens in everyday society and I just want people know that you have to call it out. It’s not appropriate in our day and age,” he said.
Senior officials at both the Rabbitohs and the NRL were quick to throw their support behind Mitchell following the abuse.
“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,” Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly said in a statement on Friday.
“Any fan who racially abuses or threatens our players will be referred to police,” said NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo.
“We wholeheartedly support Latrell in reporting this matter. He is a leader in the fight against racism in our community.”