Israel Adesanya said it best when he accepted his Halberg award for New Zealand Sportsman Of The Year.
“One thing we really need to do right now,” he says.
“When you see one of us rising, you want to tear us down, because you feel inadequate.”
In this rousing speech that captivated more than just those in attendance that night – he summed it up with this “Whether you see one of us shining, pump them up, embrace them. ’cause if they win, we win. When I win, you win.”
I believe that to be true.
This is why I fear for Latrell Mitchell’s well-being.
The back-to-back premiership winner, who also led the National Rugby League in points scored in the last two seasons seems to be the number one target for any click-bait journalism.
As he tested the market and his worth which he was more than in his right to do at the end of 2019, anything he did or didn’t do was well documented.
The negative connotations that came with that were just the beginning of what I’d say is a very sad and tough experience for him.
Any celebrity that knows and understands their privilege and the pedestal they’re put on because of who they are will always attract negative publicity and comments from the public and the media. There’s no doubts about that. The bad absolutely comes with the good.
But the good and bad are few and far between, as Mitchell is hung out to dry more often than not.
As training resumed for the NRL on May 6th, he was with his South Sydney Rabbitohs teammates as they were being put through their paces.
Despite being in a group with some of the fastest guys in the team such as Alex Johnston, Dane Gagai, and Adam Reynolds – he was made to look sluggish, unfit and slow.
Was he the only rugby league player going back to work that probably had a tough time on his first day back?
Absolutely not, but of course, stories on other players won’t get as many clicks.
Then of course what happened in Taree with Josh Addo-Carr, and some of his family members going through a tough time.
Yes, they broke isolation rules, they stuffed up, and they paid the price for it.
Fox Sports ran 11 stories in one day from one photo that was posted on Instagram about it.
The best thing both Mitchell and Addo-Carr did was come out to the public via social media to say what happened, they apologised, and they owned the narrative.
There’s no defending their actions that were posted on social media, but again, they apologised. That should be that.
It’s the constant bullying of Latrell Mitchell that really irks me.
We should, like Adesanya said, be pumping him up. He’s an incredible talent. There aren’t many people who make rugby league look easy like he does, and he’s only 22 years old.
His accolades go on and on. He’s done a lot that veteran players could only dream of achieving in their careers that he’s accomplished.
I’m concerned about his mental health. If he was on the next available flight out of there to rugby league or union in Europe, I wouldn’t blame him.
To lose someone so talented would be devastating.
Watching ‘The Last Dance’, the documentary series about Michael Jordan also gave me some thoughts.
It was Jordan himself that said all these negative comments being made about him weren’t coming from people who knew him or loved him. The comments were being made by people who were just trying to tear him down.
Mitchell’s posted up several messages online where he’s been racially abused. Been told he’s a dog. Been told his kind should be raped and killed.
Imagine being so toxic that you spend your time intentionally trying to hurt people.
Darius Boyd has spoken out about what’s happening with Latrell Mitchell, saying “Just because we are perceived to be role models and on TV it doesn’t mean we should have targets on our backs, especially unwarranted ones as well.”
We should be spending time supporting not just our sporting heroes, but also our friends and our families. There’s too much negativity in sporting circles and in the world for us to be adding more.
I admit that he knows when he’s stuffed up.
I admire Latrell Mitchell for the work he does in the indigenous community.
I admire that he’s a young kid going about his job every day and tries his hardest to compete at such an elite level.
I admire he’s putting his family first when it comes to locking in his future.
I hope that when the league starts back on May 28th, we’re able to see Latrell Mitchell do what he does best – without being targeted for absolutely everything he’s doing on or off the field.
He’s human. Remember that.
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