n The Australian rugby league coach has apologized after a pride shirt released by his club as part of an inclusivity initiative prompted a boycott from several players.
The Manly Sea Eagles had unveiled their rainbow-themed jersey to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness, but received complaints from players.
Coach Des Hasler said the execution of the move had been “poor” amid uproar across Australia and the world over the move.
During a press conference, with captain Daly Cherry-Evans, Hasler said: “They [the players] don’t wear the shirt because it goes against their cultural and religious beliefs, and I’m concerned for their well-being.
“Their spirituality is central to their well-being. The club made a mistake from which they will learn. The players will not play on Thursday and we accept their decision.
“These young men are strong in their beliefs and their convictions. We will give them the space and support they need. The playgroup is strong and understands everyone’s points of view.
Despite the boycott of several players, Hasler confirmed that the team would continue with their intention to wear the jersey.
He said: “”The intention of applying the rainbow color to our shirt was to represent diversity and inclusion for all, using the symbolic colors of pride to embrace all groups who feel marginalized and face discrimination and who have a suppressed voice.
“There has been little consultation or collaboration with key stakeholders, both inside and outside the club. Unfortunately, this mismanagement…has caused a great deal of confusion, discomfort and pain for many people, especially those groups whose human rights we were actually trying to support.
Cherry-Evans was asked if he had heard any “bigoted views” from gamers regarding the LGBTIQ+ community.
In response, he said, “Things like this are not a topic of conversation unless put into the situation.
“So we’re going through a lot for the first time as a group of players.”
Australian Rugby League committee chairman Peter V’landys defended the sport and said it was inclusive but also supportive of player positions.
He said, “We don’t live in Russia. In my opinion, we are all human beings.
“It doesn’t matter what color we are, what race we are, what religion we are. We may have our differences and we may have different beliefs, but at the end of the day, we are all human beings and we must respect that.
“However, I respect the rights of Manly players [to] freedom. They have every right to withdraw their services if they wish.
V’landys also criticized the execution of the move.
He said: “They could have been a lot more collaborative with the players.
“They shouldn’t have gone after the players.”
Former Manly player Ian Roberts, who came out as gay in 1995, said he was “heartbroken” about it but accepted the club’s apology.
Speaking to ABC, he said: “I thought the recognition, the sincerity and the authenticity was wonderful.
“I fully respect the players who choose not to play and their right not to play, their religious beliefs. I would love to be able to sit around a table with these guys in the summer and have a conversation. with them.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who is a friend of Roberts, also commented on the matter, adding: “It is important that in Australian society we respect everyone for who they are.”