The Pride Jersey

Shreya M (Year 10)

In late July 2022, 7 players refused to play for ‘Manly’ against ‘The Roosters’ in an NRL game after the revealing of a ‘Pride Jersey’. The club had announced that the players would wear a rainbow strip on their jersey to promote LGBTQIA+ inclusion in rugby. Men’s sport traditionally does not have a lot of representation, with over 500 players within 17 clubs for NRL, not a single active player is openly gay. Further, within men’s AFL, NRL, Big Bash, A-League Men and NBL, there is just one active player, Josh Cavallo, who is openly gay. 

The 7 players that refused to wear the ‘Pride Jersey’ only commented that it was due to religious and cultural reasons. It was later found that much of the animosity surrounding this decision was due to the players not being consulted before a public announcement about the jerseys. 

Coach Del Hasler held a press conference to publicly apologise for the scandal, and was remorseful for the “significant mistake” that was made. He was contrite for the way their intentions were executed as their intent was to embrace all groups and support diversity.  

There have been mixed reviews about the decisions the players made about the jerseys. Many people say that it should not matter; that the players have a duty and responsibility to play no matter what. Their argument is backed with the NRL’s inclusion framework developed in 2017 which comments, True to our roots, we welcome everyone to rugby league, regardless of race, colour, religion, ability, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, or age. We proudly and publicly stand against intolerance and bigotry, and will actively campaign against it. We treat everyone fairly and equally.” Through this, they argue that the players were aware of the policy and should not have been allowed to back out of the game. 

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community, such as ‘Ian Roberts’, the only male professional rugby player to come out as gay, have said that they were offended and worried. He commented that this event could make it harder for people already battling prejudice and opinions, saying that he has lost many friends to suicide and that this event may only help the number to increase, especially in young people. Other views on the topic have been that people understand the players point of view and demand to have been consulted on a decision such as this.  

This difference in opinions caused an inescapable divide within the teammates, potentially causing problems. Some commentators believe that an event like this can be impossible to put behind however, Kieran Foran, a NRL player for ‘Manly’ commented in early August that over the course of a week and many crisis meetings, the players have put the scandal behind them ready to focus on their next game.  

Though all seems to be resolved, opinions about this event are still surfing the web and not looking to dissipate anytime soon. The impact of this event has been massive, even making itself into daily conversations and chapel presentations.  Some questions to ask may be: 

  • Did the Manly club have merit in their initiative to be more inclusive to everyone through jerseys? 
  • Should the players have been allowed to refuse to play the game? 
  • Should the players have a right to be consulted on what goes on their jersey? 
  • Is it offensive to refuse to wear the rainbow as a show of support of those in the ‘LGBTQIA+’ community? 
  • If not the pride colours, then should advertisements or sponsors be allowed on jerseys as it is a conflict of interest and deterring from the sport. 

Despite all these opinions, you should make your own choice on whether you support the Manly club’s initial decision or not.