Manly players to boycott NRL match over club’s pride jersey

The NRL has given its backing to Manly over its decision to wear a pride jersey this week as the club prepares to lose up to seven players due to a reported boycott over the inclusivity initiative.

Manly announced on Sunday they would sport a rainbow jersey in Thursday night’s clash with the Sydney Roosters but according to reports on Monday, several players opted against wearing the one-off design.

Religious and cultural differences are believed to be partly behind the players’ stance, with a reported lack of consultation also causing unrest among the group, who only learned of the new strip design via social media on Sunday night.

Speaking at the launch of the NRL’s Women in League round on Tuesday, Australian Rugby League Commission chair Peter V’landys insisted the game was an inclusive sport, but said he also respected the Manly players’ stance.

“In my view we’re all human beings,” V’Landys said. “It doesn’t matter what colour 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 should respect that.

“However, I do respect the Manly players’ right [to] freedom. They’ve got every right to withdraw their services if they wish to do so.”

V’Landys said he hoped they would change their minds.

“This is not a political issue,” he said. “This is about human beings. This is about supporting each other and being inclusive.”

V’landys was himself unaware of the initiative until Monday and he said Manly could have handled the situation better.

“They could have been a lot more collaborative with the players,” he told reporters. “They shouldn’t have sprung it on the players.”

After the group of players aired their views on the design, an emergency meeting of Sea Eagles management was held on Monday night, when the request to wear the “Everyone in League” shirt was reiterated.

It is not known if any of the players have changed their minds. The club will hold a press conference at midday on Tuesday, but club owner Scott Penn has indicated they will forge ahead with plans to wear the jersey, even if it meant sending out a seriously understrength side to face the Roosters in what shapes to be a critical match in the club’s efforts to make finals this year.

Penn told the Sydney Morning Herald: “We’re not walking away from our position.”

By Monday night, the jersey had sold out on the club’s online store in all men’s and women’s sizes, with only junior versions of the strip available.

Manly are the only club to wear a pride jersey this week, becoming the first team in the 114-year history of the competition to wear such a design.

Earlier this year, AFLW player Haneen Zreika chose to miss Pride round rather than wear Greater Western Sydney’s pride uniform, citing religious beliefs.

The minister for government services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Bill Shorten, said it was a “great shame” and the situation was a “trainwreck” that should never have got to this point.


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