EMMA GARLETT: The NRL fan who reported racial abuse of Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker deserves a medal

Emma Garlett
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker were racially abused but a brave fan spoke out against it.
Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker were racially abused but a brave fan spoke out against it. Credit: Getty Images

If you see something, say something. This is exactly what happened on Saturday when a brave fan spoke out against the unacceptable racial abuse targeting Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell.

The fan did not let the alleged racial hatred pass by and allow the racist taunts to go unchecked. He took a stand, while others around him did not.

These race rages targeted at stars are not to be tolerated and the NRL has promised to stamp out the racism once so disgustingly prevalent in the game both on and off the field.

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They need to make an example of this racist once found and ban them for long enough that it is a deterrent for others that this sort of vile behaviour is just not acceptable in society any longer.

The NRL investigation into the racial abuse is good news for Indigenous and multicultural people because it is drawing a line in the sand to prove the NRL is serious about what they say – that they will not just say racism is unacceptable from fans, but will act when it occurs.

The fan who reported the abuse claimed that a man repeatedly made racial slurs against Mitchell and left the ground without security intervening despite the offended fan urging them to take action.

Security should have restrained or identified the man for police to interview. The NRL and clubs need to look at employing a clearer anti-racism action plan for security officers to know what to do in these situations.

Discretionary decisions may not cut it with the increase in racism and the need for crowd control to deal with these people who can’t hold their tongue when it comes to commenting about the skin colour of players.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Mitchell has been targeted by racial abuse. He has been subject to racism on a number of fronts and has regularly called out racism on social media and this year he has been the subject of excessive boos from fans at matches.

And last year a teenager received a ban from the NRL and a formal police warning for abusing Mitchell as he walked off the field at Penrith.

At the weekend the fan stood up to the racist and did not accept the behaviour he was witnessing.

The bravery must be commended and the tenacity to not accept a racist environment by reporting the incident is vital – someone needs to give this guy a medal because his action will make a difference in what is and is not accepted in the grandstands.

Racial abuse in all its forms needs to eliminated.

Security at stadiums need to do more to remove people who make racist remarks about players or other fans.

The Dragons also confirmed they are looking into the matter after being notified on Monday morning. This is good news given it was one of their own fans at their own stadium.

The past behaviour of ignoring inappropriate racist comments towards players by fans will not be ignored any longer. The NRL has a responsibility for the safety of all patrons at games, and this includes the safety to not have to be subject to racial abuse or being in an environment with condones the behaviour.

If you see racism in the NRL collate the evidence, pull your phone out and record it, because the behaviour needs to be addressed, investigated, and penalised.

The culture of football games where racism was allowed back in the day is no longer acceptable today, and the community is speaking up. It only takes one person to inspire others, and the man who stood up to the racist is a hero. It was an act of bravery to speak up rather than staying silent.

Emma Garlett is a Indigenous legal academic who works towards reconciliation and justice for Indigenous people. She is also the host of Paint It Blak — a YouTube channel that takes an indigenous lens to news, entertainment and social affairs.

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