NRL under fire over 'disgraceful' reaction to Latrell Mitchell interview controversy

The NRL has decided against sanctioning the South Sydney Rabbitohs fullback.

NRL bosses will reportedly meet with Latrell Mitchell and the South Sydney Rabbitohs this week to remind the under-fire fullback of his responsibilities on and off the field, however he won't be sanctioned. Mitchell sparked fresh controversy last week when he dropped a number of F-bombs in an expletive-laden interview with Triple M radio after the Rabbitohs' loss to the Broncos on Thursday night.

Mitchell acknowledge he was swearing but said he didn't care, which has gone down like a lead balloon in the NRL world. Veteran commentator Anthony Maroon (a Souths supporter) has labelled Mitchell a 'disgrace' and 'embarrassment to the jumper', while former players Ryan Girdler and Ben Te'o have also criticised him.

Latrell Mitchell, pictured here speaking with Triple M radio.
Latrell Mitchell dropped a number of F-bombs in an interview with Triple M radio. Image: Triple M/Getty

The interview controversy came just a week after Mitchell was condemned for commenting on what suspension he believed Spencer Leniu should receive for racially abusing Ezra Mam. Mitchell's comments came before Leniu pleaded guilty and had his judiciary hearing - which is forbidden in the NRL. Players and officials aren't allowed to comment on matters that are before the judiciary, but Mitchell was a number of players who spoke out publicly against Leniu before he had his hearing.

The NRL has decided against sanctioning Mitchell on both fronts - the Leniu comments and R-rated interview. But CEO Andrew Abdo will reportedly sit down with Mitchell at Souths headquarters this week to discuss some of his behaviour.

NRL savaged over 'disgraceful' reaction amid Latrell storm

According to reports, the Rabbitohs are trying to find a time in which Mitchell and Abdo can meet. "We encourage players to be themselves and be authentic," Abdo said over the weekend. "However, they also know they are professionals and role models which means setting an example. When speaking to fans via media interviews, we have a responsibility to be respectful."

The NRL's decision not to sanction Mitchell hasn't sat well with everyone. Commentator Mark Levy wrote on social media: “WHAT!!!!! So the NRL is happy for a 'role model' in our game to drop 5 f-bombs while acknowledging his foul language and making no apologies for it in a radio IV. I am lost for words. Latrell should be sanctioned and reminded of his responsibilities. Absolutely disgraceful.”

Latrell Mitchell interview labelled an 'embarrassment'

Discussing Mitchell's interview on Triple M on Saturday, Maroon was absolutely scathing. "I have been a Souths member for decades and decades (and) Souths to me is everything," he said. "And Latrell Mitchell's behaviour (on Thursday night) – mate, if you happen to be listening, you're an absolute disgrace.

"You are an embarrassment to our jumper and the tradition and the people it represents. To get on Triple M live on air and dropped the F-bomb half a dozen times…I mean, honestly, I cannot fathom what is going on in your head. And if any of the hierarchy at our club is listening, for God's sake, pull this bloke into line."


Panthers champion Girdler also unimpressed, saying: "It just felt unnecessary to me. The media are stakeholders in our game. If my two little kids, after watching their heroes play, have to go through that and ask me questions about it, it puts parents in an uncomfortable situation.

"It was just unnecessary language and I think Latrell is better than that. He is a leader in our game and I think someone needs to pull him into line over that."

Latrell Mitchell, pictured here in action for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Latrell Mitchell in action for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Te'o, who played for Brisbane and Souths, added: "He always talks about being a role model, doesn't he? I think it's important that he probably holds himself to a higher standard.

"We understand that sometimes we're caught up in emotion and sometimes we swear and there's a fair bit of swearing that goes on on the footy field. But once you leave and you're doing an interview - whether that be on TV or radio - I think it's important that you step into your professional role."

However some have defended Mitchell and pointed out that kids were unlikely to be listening at the time the interview was conducted (after 10pm). James Graham said Mitchell was probably frustrated after the loss, while Candice Warner suggested the backlash has only been so strong because it was Mitchell making the comments.