Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has apologised to Latrell Mitchell following a horrific incident on Thursday night, as well as condemning the widespread racism issues in Australia.
During the Rabbitohs loss to the Panthers, the 25-year-old was racially vilified at BlueBet Stadium, with the spectator involved removed by stadium security.
South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou blasted the person involved in a passionate post-game press conference, calling for life bans for any fan involved in a racial incident.
Speaking to the media prior to their Round 2 clash, Robinson echoed the sentiments of his rival coach and stood in solidarity with Latrell.
“People have different emotions, that’s why we watch sport – but to express it in that way is just wrong, it’s unacceptable,” he said.
“It shouldn’t be tolerated. I heard Jason’s comments about banning them for life and as it should be – we have to stamp it out. It’s not about teams and who someone plays for, this is a deeper issue.
“That’s where we are still at as a country. It’s pretty standard – some people are casual racists, some people are overt like it was last night. That’s still where we are at and people don’t like strong Indigenous voices like Latrell.
“They’d rather he stay quiet and in his box and don’t express it in that way…that’s how it comes out and it’s unacceptable.
“Taking off the colours that you wear and all of that, it’s just not on.”
The incident on Thursday night wasn’t the first time Latrell has had to speak up against racism, with the superstar fullback taking legal action against online trolls last year.
The spectator involved from Penrith was allegedly wearing a Sydney Roosters jersey, which Robinson was made aware of and was adamant that the person doesn’t represent the foundation club’s values.
“I just heard about it five minutes ago and it’s really disappointing,” he said.
“We don’t represent the Roosters in that way, that’s not how we want to act as Roosters. Whether we like it or not, they were wearing our colours and we have to accept that.
“That doesn’t mean they are a Rooster – if you want to act like that and abuse people and do it racially like that – that’s not who we are or who we want to be and we need to get better than that.
“From us, that’s apologising from the Roosters to Latrell is important, even though it’s not directly – but indirectly, one of our fans who support us did that and that’s not right.
“We had big rivalries with him last year and he’s won grand finals in this jersey as well. But take out all of that, take out the jerseys that they wear – people don’t like someone like him having a really strong voice and him voicing it in different ways.
“He’s got his ways of expressing himself and that’s cool and we’re still not a point where we are happy to accept really strong Indigenous voices in this country. He’s doing it in his way and he’s doing it in a way which is really proud. It’s really disappointing from our point of view.
“He’s not one of my players, I can say it from past history, but my thing is to apologise today from a Roosters point of view and to support something that shouldn’t still be happening.
“I think someone else should go into more personal bits about Latrell – he hasn’t been with us for a couple of years.”
Given the ongoing racism directed towards Latrell and other Indigenous players, there are growing fears among the NRL that the fullback could walk away from the game.
But according to Robinson, who coached him from a young age and won two premierships alongside him with the Roosters, Latrell’s pride won’t let this deter him from being a strong voice in the community.
“He’s too strong for that,” Robinson said.
“I think he will get stronger and stronger from this. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen it with Latrell…he understands that’s a part of his life.
“I haven’t talked to him about it for a few years obviously, but he understands that and he’ll use it in his way and the right way.”
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