Pride shirts spark player boycott at Australian rugby league club


An Australian rugby league club’s historic decision to wear rainbow shirts to celebrate gay pride has prompted a boycott by seven of its players.

The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles unveiled rainbow stripe jerseys to celebrate “inclusiveness and diversity” for their upcoming game on Thursday, which will be crucial to their playoff chances.

The Sydney-based club had spoken of their pride at being the first team in National Rugby League history to wear such a shirt, but reports in Australia say seven players are opposed to wearing the shirts for “cultural and religious” reasons wear and will miss the game as a result.

Former Manly player Ian Roberts, the first professional rugby league player to come out as gay in Australia, said the players’ opposition to the shirt was “sad” and called the situation “heartbreaking”.

Sea Eagles head coach Des Hasler confirmed the players and coaching staff were unaware of the jerseys until their unveiling on Monday. In a press conference, Hasler apologized for the club’s mishandling of the situation, but confirmed that the team will continue to wear the shirts in the game.

“The intent of the rainbow colored application of our jersey was to represent diversity and inclusion for all, using the symbolic colors of pride to include all groups who feel marginalized and discriminated against and have an oppressed voice,” said Hasler.

“The intention of the jersey was to support advocacy and human rights related to gender, racial culture, ability and LGBTQ rights. Unfortunately, the execution of this initiative, which was planned as extremely important, was poor.

“There was little consultation or collaboration with key stakeholders, either inside or outside the club. Unfortunately, this poor management has caused significant confusion, discomfort, and pain for many people. Especially those groups whose human rights we were actually trying to support.

Hasler apologized for the handling of the

(Getty Images)

“We even affected our player group, a wonderful group of people from many different racial and cultural backgrounds. We would like to sincerely apologize for the mistakes we made.”

The team’s owner, Scott Penn, confirmed the players would not be “forced” to play but said their decision was “disappointing”. He told the Sydney Herald: “We are not moving from our position. And we respect their beliefs. We don’t want these players to become underdogs, but as a club we all celebrate and support.” Pride shirts spark player boycott at Australian rugby league club

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