Margaret Court, Latrell Mitchell and the scourge of social media in sport


Post the Cup, jockey Michael Walker has been hammered after he was heavily fined for overuse of the whip on second place getter Prince of Arran. So bad has been the abuse hurled at him and his young family, he’s thinking of giving it away.

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Latrell Mitchell, the Roosters superstar, has been in a battle with Twitter and Instagram trolls all season. Mitchell, the proudest of young Indigenous men, has called out racism directed at him on these platforms.

In a perfect world, Mitchell would ignore the imbeciles and do what he does best. But it’s not a perfect world and it has affected him. Without doubt, his form in the latter stages of the 2019 season fell away.

Rugby league has been at the forefront of tolerance for decades and racial issues have been few and far between. The game selected the first Indigenous captain of a national team when Artie Beetson was given the role way back in 1973.

However, these things mean little to Mitchell, a 22-year-old Millennial who sees the world through a different prism. The Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers who run clubs and the game must find a way of fully understanding this.

The world has changed and is not going back.

Latrell Mitchell’s concerns go deeper than merely a contract offer.Credit:Getty

Those thinking with simplicity about Mitchell turning down $800,000-a-season to stay at the Roosters argue he’s “greedy” and should stay in a “good system” at a club which has already yielded him two premierships.

There is no doubt the Roosters are the best run, and arguably best coached, football club in the 16-team competition, but that does not mean Mitchell must roll over and stay.

His head is full of many other thoughts. The most telling development is that people near him reached out to the Cowboys, the club at which the greatest Indigenous player of his generation, Johnathan Thurston, found lifelong sanctuary.

For Mitchell, a move way up to North Queensland, in his mind, would provide him a sanctuary away from the noise.

For an example, look no further than Buddy Franklin. With two premierships under his belt, he bailed on the best run and coached club in the AFL – Hawthorn – to sign a nine-year deal with the Swans. Franklin was after a life outside of the Melbourne “AFL bubble” and has achieved that.

Tennis Australia will be the next to feel the full wrath of social media empowerment. Margaret Court in 2020 will celebrate the 50th anniversary of her 1970 grand slam-winning season.

She has called on TA to celebrate her achievement in the same way it did in January this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Rod Laver’s 1969 slam.

Court has a court named after her at Melbourne Park, so it’s a no brainer, right? She has won 24 grand slam titles.

Wrong. Court, has a problem and it’s a big problem for tennis. As a pastor of the Victory Life Centre Family Church in Perth, she is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage. Dangerous territory.

Gay formers stars Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova are at the forefront of a campaign to have her name removed from Margaret Court Arena and want female players to boycott the court.

Court’s public campaign to be feted in the same way as Laver will open the floodgates to a tidal wave of social media posts, which will make it impossible for TA to honour her.

Here is but one example. Maddie Groves, the Queensland swimmer who won two silver medals at the Rio Olympics (200m butterfly and 4x200m freestyle relay), had this to say on Twitter in response to Court’s public plea for recognition.

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“Good luck with that ya homophobic/transphobic bigot”.

As a strong believer in the right for gays to marry and a person who voted for same-sex marriage, I completely disagree with Court’s antiquated views, and wish she didn’t hold them. But, she does hold them and has a right to do so in the same way I have a right to hold the opposite view.

But that doesn’t mean her life’s achievements, which are even greater than Laver’s statistically, should be wiped from the face of the earth.

Good luck TA. And baton down the hatches.

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