Representative hooker Damien Cook feared Mitchell, who will be 30 when his current deal expires, would back his words with actions because of the abuse he receives.
Mitchell was said to be fine in the sheds, and had become almost immune to the vitriol directed at him over the years.
“This is why he might talk about being done at 30,” Cook told the Herald.
“We have a great player who puts bums on seats, everyone wants to see him play, but when you get things like this, and when it comes to a time to choose farm or footy, these things come up.
“He leads so well by example for the Indigenous culture and the young kids coming through, it’s an absolute joke it’s happened. And why?
“It’s 2023 and this is happening. This isn’t the first time Latrell has had to go through this.
“I was one of the last off the field, I caught the end of it. I heard what had been said, and they were trying to point [the fan] out.
“I saw ‘Romes’ [Luai] react to it as well, and his first reaction was to turn and support Latrell.
“Emotions are high in the middle of a game already, and to have that comment made … [fans] have great seats there, great access to the players, so we don’t want to get to the point where we close things off completely so they don’t have access to us at all, just so we can be protected.”
EGroup, which controls security at Penrith’s home ground, examined footage of the incident late on Thursday. There have already been discussions about increasing security for players on the sideline and reserves in the dugouts.
Penrith’s Nathan Cleary has played in NSW Origin and Kangaroos teams with Mitchell. He has heard some of the stories of abuse Mitchell has experienced because of his heritage.
Cleary cringed when told the two words Mitchell had allegedly been called, and said: “Excuse my French, but that’s shit. I don’t know why people still do that stuff.
“He’s explained to the boys at times little bits [about what he goes through]. But half the time it’s there for everyone to see anyway, either online or at games. It’s disgusting. I feel for him.
“Latrell is such a pivotal person in our game, he brings fans in to watch, I always enjoy watching him, I enjoy coming up against him, and I enjoy playing with him.
“But for some reason, people in this world want to be negative, and stuff like that is ridiculous.”
Greg Inglis was exposed to racial taunts when he played in Penrith in 2018. Life bans were called for then, too.
Cleary said: “No matter where it is, at no point in the game should you feel like you have the right to say stuff like that to a player, whether it’s an opposing player, whether you don’t like them, whether your team isn’t playing well – you can criticise their game, but anything racial is totally crossing the line. Hopefully, they never come back here.”
South Sydney chief executive Blake Solly had hoped for a win to celebrate Mitchell’s 50th game for the club.
“It’s so unfortunate. It’s 2023 and we’re still having these conversations, and still trying to get people to change their behaviours and attitudes,” Solly said.
“Latrell was OK in the sheds, but it’s something Latrell has faced all his life, he’s learnt to respond to it and be resilient, and while it doesn’t make it acceptable or appropriate, he’s tough and happy to stand up for himself.”
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