Dubble Click
News Blog

Club and players to blame in Manly pride jersey fiasco as boycott highlights hypocrisy on other issues

The last 48 hours have been exhausting as a rugby league fun.

Controversy surrounded the final seconds of the Cowboys’ win over Westst Tigers preceded a media conference in which Graham Annesley’s responses led to more questions than answers.

Kevin Proctor got the punt from the Titans following a moment of idiocy when he decided to not only keep his phone with him in a ‘restricted area’ during a game but then use that phone to share a video of him vaping during half-time.

But as challenging and frustrating these two scenarios have been it pales in comparison to the debacle that is Manly’s “Everyone In League” jersey which the club was set to debut this Thursday.

This jersey not only saw the Sea Eagles joining with ‘Gotcha 4 Life’ in support of mental fitness, but also saw inclusion of a rainbow to acknowledge and support members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

What has since followed is a group of Manly players, including Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Josh Schuster and Tolu Koala making the decision to withdraw from the match, because they do not want to wear the jersey.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 04: Jason Saab of the Sea Eagles celebrates scoring a try with team mates during the round 13 NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the New Zealand Warriors at 4 Pines Park, on June 04, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Jason Saab celebrates a try with teammates. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

In response to this decision, I’ve seen words like ‘bigot’ and ‘homophobe’ thrown around.

In my view, these words do not do justice to a conversation that is not black and white.

As good as the club’s intentions may have been, my view is they set themselves up to fail because the players were not consulted about the development of this jersey or what it meant.

I often come back to the saying ‘nothing about us, without us’ and it seems like the Manly players were not part of the conversation at all when the end result was the players being asked to wear a jersey that signalled certain values; some of which are not shared by the whole group.

Perhaps if this opportunity had been provided, some of these players may have engaged in a conversation about why they did not want to wear the jersey?

Or explained to their teammates why their religion ‘forbids’ them from wearing a jersey with a rainbow on it?

Perhaps some of the men who wanted to wear the jersey could have shared their experience. Or perhaps Sea Eagles legend Ian Roberts could have joined the players for a conversation about why inclusion and diversity are so important.

There may have been an opportunity to listen and learn from each other. That opportunity has since been lost and instead valued members of our rugby league community are likely feeling sad, excluded, hurt and not welcome in a game they love so much.

This is not the first time a player has made a decision like this. Earlier this year, GWS player Haneen Zreika made a decision not to wear the Giants’ inaugural pride guernsey.

Zreika’s situation demonstrates the importance of nuance in these conversations. Zreika is the only Muslim woman in the AFLW and carries the weight of her community on her shoulders.

While she has participated in Pride Rounds before, she spoke to her teammates about her beliefs and her reasons why she did not want to wear the guernsey.

From all accounts, the most important cohort of people – her teammates, many of whom identify as LGBTQIA+ – understood her position and Zreika returned to the team the next week.

Haneen Zreika during a Greater Western Sydney Giants AFLW training session at Sydney Olympic Park on December 02, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Haneen Zreika. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

But this is not what has happened at Manly and the decision by these players smacks as hypocritical to me.

For many people in Australia, religion is deeply important. I support the rights of each person to be able to worship as they wish.

However, players citing religious reasons for not wanting to wear this jersey is difficult for me to understand given behaviour demonstrated in our game every single week.

In between the rainbow flags that were meant to be on the Manly jersey at their home ground is the club’s principle sponsor, PointsBet. The Sea Eagles play at a ground, the naming rights of which are owned by an alcohol company.

The players are willing to stand by their ‘mates’ and play alongside men that have engaged in morally reprehensible and in some cases, illegal behaviour.

We rarely see players speak out about these kinds of behaviours. We either hear deafening silence or defence of their friends. We rarely see leadership from the players in this situation.

It saddens me that the issue that players want to speak out about is inclusion, when they seem so unwilling to speak out about anything else.

It has been many years since a man who identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community has openly been part of the men’s rugby league playing community.

Ian Roberts in action for Australia

Ian Roberts (Anton Want/Getty Images)

After the events of the last 24 hours are you surprised? Would you categorise this as a safe space, given some Manly players have made their feelings well and truly known.

And what timing! This debacle has happened on the eve of ‘Women in League’ round where the contribution of women to our game is celebrated. This year, spare a thought for the many women who compete in the Women’s NRL Premiership, who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

What message have these Manly players sent these women with their actions?

It’s not OK. Far from it.

But most importantly, the views of the few do not represent the views of the many. To everyone involved in rugby league that identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, please know this. You are valued. You are loved.

And despite the behaviour of some of these Manly players, you are always welcome in rugby league.

Source link

Comments are closed.