Players from the Australian rugby league team Manly Sea Eagles have refused to wear the club’s new Pride jersey in a National Rugby League (NRL) blockbuster match this Thursday against the Sydney Roosters.
The one-off jersey which was unveiled yesterday has been introduced to promote inclusion and diversity in the sport however the club’s coach revealed that seven of the team’s players are boycotting the jersey on the grounds of “cultural and religious” beliefs.
The new jersey, dubbed the ‘Everyone in League’ design, will be the first time that an NRL club has publicly shown support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Speaking at a press conference earlier today, coach Des Hasler apologised for what he called a “significant mistake”, going on to explain, “The intent of the rainbow colour application of our jersey was to represent diversity and inclusion for all, utilising the symbolic colours of pride to embrace all groups who feel marginalised and faced discrimination and have a suppressed share of voice.”
He continued, “The jersey intent was to support the advocacy and human rights pertaining to gender, race culture, ability and LGBTQ movements. Sadly, the execution of what was intended to be an extremely important initiative was poor.
“There was little consultation or collaboration with key stakeholders, both inside and outside the club. Sadly, this poor management … has caused significant confusion, discomfort and pain for many people. In particular, those groups whose human rights we were, in fact, attempting to support.”
— Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (@SeaEagles) July 24, 2022
Addressing the impact on the players, he said, “We have even adversely affected our player group, a wonderful group of people comprising of many different racial and cultural backgrounds. We wish to sincerely apologise for the mistakes we have made.”
One of Manly’s former players Ian Roberts was the first professional rugby league player to come out in 1995. In a report from Australia’s Star Observer, he explained the news “breaks my heart” leaving him feeling “sad and uncomfortable”. But he also said, “this isn’t unfamiliar. I did wonder whether there would be any religious pushback. That’s why I think the NRL have never had a Pride round.”
Despite the player’s reaction, the jersey has proved extremely popular with fans with all men’s sizes reportedly selling out within hours following news of the controversy.
Shocking that half a sports team feel their ‘beliefs’ mean they must boycott inclusivity efforts because it includes ?️? people.
— NXF (@nxfie) July 26, 2022
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