The LGBT-theme jersey boycott by Sydney-based rugby players has sparked a full-blown controversy in Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) world as more players from the team rejected the opportunity to play this weekend.
On Monday, Manly Warringah Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler said at a press conference that seven players – Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula, and Toafofoa Sipley – chose not to play for cultural and religious reasons.
The Daily Telegraph also reported that several first-time players also declined to play in Thursday’s upcoming game against the Sydney Roosters.
The players are committed to boycotting a crucial match after their team announced they would wear a rainbow-themed LGBT jersey to show support for ‘inclusivity and diversity.
Here’s what the team said in a statement:
“Manly Warringah Sea Eagles will proudly wear a rainbow-detailed jersey to celebrate inclusiveness during our Round 20 game against the Roosters at 4 Pines Park.”
“The Sea Eagles have today unveiled their ‘Everyone in League’ jersey, a collaboration with Dynasty Sport. The jersey will be worn against the Sydney Roosters at 4 Pines Park on Thursday, July 28,” the team added.
Tyler Rakich, Founder/Director of Dynasty Sport also said:
“Sport is one of those great things where people come together from all walks of life and participate in something without exclusion. This jersey is a celebration of that and the first of its kind in the NRL.’’
According to multiple reports, neither the team nor the team’s stakeholders were consulted about the jersey until the Sea Eagles announced it to the media Monday as part of its Everybody in League initiative.
The seven players were Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula, and Toafofoa Sipley. While players Sean Keppie, Kieran Foran, and Reuben Garrick were the three players who modeled it for the promotional campaign.
Watch the video below:
— Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (@SeaEagles) July 24, 2022
More details of this report from The Daily Mail:
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, based north of Sydney, unveiled the strip – which features rainbow piping on the neck, sleeves and around the sponsor logo – yesterday morning, saying it showed support for ‘inclusivity and diversity’.
But just hours later club bosses were forced to call a crisis meeting with players who said they would refuse to wear the top on ‘religious and cultural grounds’, having failed to consult them on the decision ahead of time.
Now, what was meant to be a symbol of togetherness has instead become one of division as an openly gay club legend, league bosses, radio presenters, and even the Prime Minister have been dragged into a vicious debate overshadowing the sport.
Meanwhile Manly faces calling up reserve players for Thursday night’s game that could prove crucial for their chances of winning the league, after owner Scott Penn categorically ruled out dropping the strip.
According to CNN, Manly Coach Des Hasler and Captain Daly Cherry-Evans addressed the media on Tuesday and apologized for the “mismanagement” of the pride jersey release:
“The intent of the rainbow color application of our jersey was to represent diversity and inclusion … embracing all groups who feel marginalized, face discrimination and have a suppressed share of voice,” Hasler said.
“The jersey’s 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 between key stakeholders, both inside and outside the club.
“Sadly, this poor mismanagement has caused significant confusion, discomfort and pain for many people. We have even adversely affected our playing group, a wonderful group of people comprising of many different races and cultural backgrounds.
“We wish to sincerely apologize for the mistakes we have made. We wish to apologize to the minority groups within the community who embrace the rainbow colors as a symbol of pride in who they are and what they stand for.
“We wish to apologize to the LGBTQ community who embrace the rainbow color for pride and advocacy and human rights issues. We accept your cultural beliefs and hope that you can accept our apology.”