Rugby league star Latrell Mitchell's NRL contract negotiations again became the subject of undue criticism on Thursday morning when a veteran sports journalist suggested the racial abuse directed at the player throughout 2019 had been overblown.
During an episode of Sky Sport Racing's Big Sports Breakfast program on Thursday, veteran NewsCorp journalist, Dean Ritchie, suggested the online abuse directed at Mitchell originated from a single source and Mitchell should have "thicker skin" and "learn to live with [it]" .
Ritchie asked co-panelist Laurie Daley, a Wiradjuri man, whether he "honestly" believed the racial vilification directed at Mitchell "early on in the year" affected him at all.
“And do you think this has happened so often in Latrell’s life," Ritchie continued, "that he now has become used to it – albeit, I don’t agree with it...clearly– but is it something he has to learn to live with?”
NRL great, Daley, responded by pointing out that everyone dealt with “criticism differently”.
“I’m hoping that he’s got a good support network around him, but you know what trolls are like,” said Daley.
“You’re talking about a 22-year-old that is at a club in Sydney, a high-profile club, he’s a high-profile athlete trying to deal with himself as a leader in the Indigenous community, trying to make strong statements for them as well as playing Rugby League and then gets abused, I don’t know how he copes with it all right,” he said.
Following Daley’s response, Ritchie suggested “It’s one person, one halfwit, who wants to go on and troll.”
“Nah, it’s not,” said Daley.
Ritchie's commentary has drawn criticism across the social media platforms, with Yankunytjatjara and Wirangu woman and television host Shelley Ware, saying the Big Sports Breakfast program needed cultural awareness training.
Elsewhere in the media in the past few days, Mitchell, a proud Biripi man, has attracted criticism from prominent Sydney media for turning up to training behind the wheel of a Mercedes.
Mitchell, who plays for leading Sydney club the Sydney Roosters, is reported as currently "exploring his options" with other NRL clubs after the Roosters withdrew a contract extension offer said to be worth around $800,000 per season.
The player, who has won successive premierships with the Rooster in 2018 and 2019, has successfully represented both the New South Wales Blues at State of Origin level and the Australian Kangaroos on the international stage.
It is reported that Mitchell is seeking a better deal than his current contract, said to be worth around $450,000 per year.
Considered to be one of the marquee players in the elite grade, a number of NRL clubs continue to pursue the 22-year-old's signature, including the North Queensland Cowboys and the perennially struggling Wests-Tigers outfit.