Online trolls targeting NRL players have been placed on notice after two men were arrested for allegedly sending racially abusive messages to South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell via social media.
Mitchell earlier this week informed the NRL Integrity Unit that he had received numerous offensive and racially charged messages via his Instagram account and the details of his complaint was forwarded to NSW Police.
A 22 year-old Taree man and a 25-year-old Lake Munmorah man were arrested on Friday after an investigation by the Fixated Persons Investigation Unit and with using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.
Police seized electronic devices at their homes.
The men were granted bail and the 22-year-old will appear before Taree Local Court on May 18, while the 25-year-old will appear before Wyong Local Court on May 12.
The arrests come a month after the NRL reported an incident to police involving threats made to Sydney Roosters centre Josh Morris by a man who threatened to wait for him outside Campbelltown Stadium after a match against Wests Tigers.
The man made the threat to Morris through a direct message request and the matter was referred to NSW Police, while betting agencies immediately closed the man’s accounts..
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the game would not tolerate racial abuse or threats against players.
“The NRL was informed of this abuse over the weekend and our Integrity Unit immediately investigated and referred our file, with the support of Latrell, to NSW Police to commence a criminal investigation,” Abdo said.
“There is no place for fans like this in our game. Any fan who racially abuses or threatens our players will be referred to police.
“I want to commend Latrell for the leadership role he is taking. We wholeheartedly support Latrell in reporting this matter. He is a leader in the fight against racism in our community.”
Souths chief executive Blake Solly urged other players to take similar action to Mitchell, who will hold a media conference on Monday.
“Racism is absolutely abhorrent and has no place in our game or society in general,” Solly said in a club statement.
“We fully support Latrell’s decision to refer the abuse to the NSW Police.
“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.”
Mitchell has taken a stand against racist abuse on a number of occasions and revealed ahead of last year’s Indigenous round that he had nearly quit the game because of it.
Rabbitohs assistant coach Jason Demetriou, who will succeed Wayne Bennett next season, tweeted: “Extremely proud of Latrell”.
In response to concerns about online bullying, Instagram this week announced new controls in Australia to help high-profile athletes such as NRL and AFL stars block trolls.
The move follows months of collaboration between sporting organisations and anti-discrimination bodies, and Instagram announced the changes on Wednesday which enable users to filter out abusive messages and block unwanted contact.
Source: NRL (National Rugby League)