The NRL rainbow striped pride jersey drama has gone global with some of the world’s biggest news outlets and Australians continue to throw their two cents on the saga.
Former England and St Helens captain and Canterbury Bulldogs prop James Graham has accused seven Manly Sea Eagles players of overreacting after deciding to boycott Thursday’s NRL fixture with the Sydney Roosters on the jersey, designed to support LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport.
Coach Des Hasler apologized on Tuesday after Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley refused to take the field, forcing him to name an experienced team to the confrontation.
“For me personally, I think it’s an overreaction from the players,” Graham said on Fox League’s NRL 360 on Tuesday night.
“It’s just a few colors on a shirt. It’s not worth missing a game over.
‘You can have your convictions, but really? Are you going to die on your hill?
‘It’s just not worth it. Just accept it and crack. I don’t think it’s worth planting your flag on this one.
Manly’s pride sweater for Thursday night’s clash against the Roosters features rainbow colors replacing the traditional white piping, but some stars refused to don the shirt (pictured left to right of Manly players Sean Keppie, Kieran Foran and Reuben Garrick)
Former England and St Helens captain and Canterbury Bulldogs prop James Graham said the boycott was an ‘excessive action’
He said the controversy surrounding the shirt could create a divide within the team as the club tries to stay in the top eight and several players are willing to risk the club’s chances of becoming the club’s premier.
Although he admitted the players should have been consulted beforehand.
“It should have been kicked off…maybe they could have found solutions that worked for everyone because at the moment…they are struggling to find a way out of a difficult situation,” he said.
“There were no winners and you feel sorry for all aspects that were affected by this.”
The controversy spread to international media on Tuesday with the BBC and The Times in the UK, as well as CNN and the Washington Post in the US publishing the story.
The Manly saga has gone global, being covered by outlets including the Washington Post (pictured) and CNN
The Times story claimed that Manly faced an “uprising” from players who “refused to wear the shirt celebrating inclusivity”.
The international coverage sparked heated debate among thousands of readers.
“Good for those seven,” wrote one person from Spain.
‘Why is sport so political these days. Why can’t we just play and watch sports for fun and relaxation. Not everything needs to tie everything together,” said another from the UK.
“If your religious beliefs are offended by a rainbow shirt, then I strongly suggest your beliefs are quite fragile and fragile,” said a Londoner, based in New Zealand.
“What makes it worse is that it’s during the Women in League tour which celebrates women playing Rugby League and mothers taking their children to games and cheering them on,” one American fan wrote.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean gave his two cents when he tweeted on Tuesday afternoon and said more clubs should embrace the rainbow jersey.
The NRL generates millions a year for the NSW economy with Treasurer Matt Kean saying he hopes more clubs take up the rainbow jersey
Matt Kean (pictured) recently called for Liberal candidate in the last election, Katherine Deves, to be disapproved of for her views on not allowing trans people to compete in women’s sport
“Can someone tell these seven Manly players that (the rainbow) is not contagious, but wearing it might make them better at showing pride and respect to different people,” did he declare.
“If there is an NRL Pride Tour next year, I hope the mighty Dragons turn red, white and rainbow!”
Despite support from many areas, Hasler admitted the introduction of jerseys could have been handled better.
“We are here today to apologize for a significant mistake made by the Manly club,” he told reporters.
‘The change from our traditional jersey was the application of the colors of the rainbow. The intention was to represent diversity and inclusion to embrace all groups that feel marginalized and face discrimination.
“Unfortunately, the execution of what was expected to be an extremely important initiative has been poor.”
Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans and coach Des Hasler speak to the media at a Manly Warringah Sea Eagles press conference after the drama erupted
Australian Rugby League committee chairman Peter V’landys said he understands player choices, based on religious and cultural differences, but pushes for inclusion and acceptance in the sport.
“One thing I’m proud of with rugby league is that we treat everyone the same,” Mr V’landys said.
“It doesn’t matter your color, sexual orientation or race. We are all equal.
“We will never take a step back to make our sport inclusive. But at the same time, we will not disrespect our players’ freedoms.
The NRL does not have a designated pride tower, but Mr V’landys said this could be a consideration for future seasons.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys hasn’t ruled out the NRL launching a Pride Tour in 2023
Andrew Purchas, co-founder of the Pride In Sport program which supports Australian sports clubs with aspects of inclusion, acknowledged the Sea Eagles apology.
“Conversation, education and understanding are essential to respectfully advancing these important discussions in our communities,” Purchas said in a statement.
“At its core, a pride jersey signals a core value: everyone should feel safe to play.
“We strongly support the NRL in its efforts to continue to uphold the values associated with inclusivity, safety and belonging, and we urge everyone to think of these as non-controversial values around which we can unite. .”
The Sea Eagles sit ninth in the NRL, one place below the Roosters, with the top eight teams taking part in the Premiership play-offs.