Manly Sea Eagles players plan boycott over pride jersey

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 (Getty Images)
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An Australian rugby league coach has apologised after a pride jersey released by his club as part of an inclusivity initiative caused a boycott from several players.

The Manly Sea Eagles had unveiled their rainbow-themed jersey to celebrate diversity and inclusivity, but recieved complaints from players.

Coach Des Hasler said the execution of the initiative had been “poor” amid uproar across Australia and the world over the move.

In a media briefing, with captain Daly Cherry-Evans, Hasler said: “They [the players] are not wearing the jersey as it conflicts with their cultural and religious beliefs, and I am concerned for their welfare.

“Their spirituality is a central part of their wellbeing. The club has made an error from which it will learn. The players will not play on Thursday and we accept their decision.

“These young men are strong in their beliefs and convictions. We’ll give them space and the support they require. The playing group are solid and understanding of each other’s views.”

Despite the boycott from several players, Hasler confirmed the team would continue plans to wear the jersey.

He said: ““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.

“There was little consultation or collaboration with key stakeholder, 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.

Cherry-Evans was quizzed on whether he had heard “bigoted views” from players regarding the LGBTIQ+ community.

In response, he said: “Stuff like this isn’t a topic of conversation unless put in the situation.

“So we are experiencing a lot of things for the first time as a playing group.”

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys defended the sport and said it was inclusive, but also that he supported the players’ stances.

He said: “We don’t live in Russia. In my view we’re all human beings.

“It doesn’t matter what colour we are, what race we are, what religion we are. We may have our differences and we may have different beliefs but at the end of the day we are all human beings and we should respect that.

“However, I do respect the Manly players’ right [to] freedom. They’ve got every right to withdraw their services if they wish to do so.”

V’landys also criticised the execution of the move.

He said: “They could have been a lot more collaborative with the players.

“They shouldn’t have sprung it on the players.”

Former Manly player Ian Roberts, who came out as gay in 1995 said he was “heartbroken” about the matter but accepted the apology from the club.

Speaking to ABC, he said: “I thought the acknowledgement and the sincerity and authenticity was wonderful.

“I fully respect those players choosing not to play and their right not to play, their religious beliefs. I would love, given the opportunity to sit around a table with those guys in the summer and have a conversation with them.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who is a friend of Roberts, also commented on the issue, adding: “It’s important that in Australian society we respect everyone for who they are”.

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