A former Manly Sea Eagles club great has detailed his heartbreak over the player revolt surrounding a pride jersey.
Seven Manly stars are boycotting Thursday night’s contest against the Sydney Roosters after the club’s decision to wear a one-off pride jersey.
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Players are reportedly opposed to wearing the jersey due to religious beliefs, with the players in question being: Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley.
Manly held an emergency meeting on Monday night with the players as the club now faces the challenge of contesting the must win game without them.
Manly is set to become the first club in rugby league history to wear a jersey celebrating inclusivity, with rainbow colours replacing the traditional white piping.
Former Sea Eagles great Ian Roberts, the first rugby league player to come out as openly gay, was left broken hearted by the player revolt.
“I try to see it from all perspectives but this breaks my heart,” Roberts said to The Daily Telegraph.
“It’s sad and uncomfortable. As an older gay man, 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.”
“I can promise you every young kid on the northern beaches who is dealing with their sexuality would have heard about this.”
Journalist Paul Kent, however, offered a differing view and put the onus squarely back on the club for trying to inject its own political views on the playing group.
“The players, according to my understanding, not all of them but many of them only became aware they were wearing these jerseys when they read about it in the newspaper,” Kent said on NRL 360.
“Because of their own cultural and religious beliefs some of them have an issue with it.
“The Manly club did this without any consultation of the players, they did it without board approval. It’s basically a marketing decision and they’ve just assumed everything was ok.
“The club has imposed its own politics on these players and these players have inadvertently been embroiled in this scandal and they will be, hopefully, protected. But they will be under pressure now through no fault of their own.
“It’s an embarrassing look for the club and it’s a difficult one. This talk about inclusion, wearing the Manly jersey for me is inclusion.
“To inflict their own political views on the players who may not share that and are now being forced to deal with the consequences of that is a real oversight by the club and it’s something they should be embarrassed about.”
Social media users, however, weren’t backing down from condemning the players for revolting against wearing the pride jersey.
Wide World of Sports’ Matt Bungard wrote: “I don’t want to hear one single thing about ‘respecting other people’s opinions’ or using religion as a crutch to hide behind while being homophobic. No issues playing at a stadium covered in alcohol and gambling sponsors, which is also a sin. What a joke.”
Spalk Talk’s Tom Read wrote: “As a manly fan, I’d be more than ok for those players to not play in this game, or ever again for the club.”
Townsville Bulletin editor Chris McMahon wrote: “I don’t care if it derails Manly’s season, but if these flogs pull out of this game because of an inclusive jersey, they should be stood down for the season without pay. As a massive @SeaEagles supporter this is enough for me to almost pack it in.”
Originally published as NRL world divided by Manly Sea Eagles pride jersey player revolt