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Australian rugby coach apologises for ‘poor execution’ of Pride jersey after players boycott upcoming game

Seven players for the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles are boycotting the team's upcoming game over the inclusive clothing.

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Twitter/@SeaEagles

The coach of the Australian rugby team the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles has apologised for the “poor execution” of the team’s new inclusive Pride jersey. 

When the Eagles play a decisive game on Thursday (28 July) they will become the first team to do wearing a Pride-themed kit. However, seven players are boycotting the game over the jersey.

However, some on the team aren’t happy that they weren’t consulted and are said to be boycotting on religious and cultural grounds. 

A promo sees players wearing the jersey which features rainbow details around the cuffs and across the body.

The seven players have been identified by local media as Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolu Koula, and Toafofoa Sipley.

The team’s coach, Des Hasler, seemed to accept blame and has apologised for “a significant mistake” in the lack of consultation as well as to the LGBTQ community. “At a minimum, they [the players] should have been consulted,” he said in a press conference on Tuesday (26 July)

“The intent of the rainbow application of our jersey was to represent diversity and inclusion for all, utilising the symbolic colours of Pride to embrace all groups who feel marginalised, face discrimination, and a suppressed share of voice,” he read out.

“Sadly, the execution of what was intended to be an extremely important initiative was poor,” he went on to say before sincerely apologising. 

As well as apologising to the LGBTQ community, Hasler apologised to the NRL for creating negative news and for any confusion caused to players and staff within the Sea Eagles by the decision.

“We accept their decision,” Hasler told reporters of those boycotting Thursday’s game while also confirming the Pride jersey would be worn later this week. 

The players’ decision has led to considerable backlash online. A former Manly player, Ian Roberts, who was the first professional rugby league player to come out as gay, described the situation as “sad and uncomfortable.”

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald Roberts added: “I can promise you every young kid on the northern beaches [of Sydney] who is dealing with their sexuality would have heard about this.”

In his own column for the Herald he addressed the players writing, “Can you not understand the pain visited upon gay people who, no matter what they do, are disrespected simply for being gay?” 

The Attitude July/August issue is out now.