'What fkn children': Internet reacts to NRL players refusing to wear pride jerseys

Right Here Right Now 26/07/2022

In case you haven’t heard, seven NRL players, including three Kiwis, are refusing to play in pride jerseys this week due to their religious beliefs. 

The players, Jason Saab, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau'atu, Tolutau Koula and New Zealanders Josh Aloiai, Toafofoa Sipley and Christian Tuipulotu, all play for the Manly Sea Eagles and are refusing to wear the below jerseys and represent their team ths weekend, all because of the little rainbow stripes. 

Social media has sparked up at the players’ decisions, with scrutiny coming from all directions. 

Some, such as Matt Bungard from Nine’s Wide World of Sports, have been quick to point out the hypocrisy around not wearing Manly’s jersey because of some rainbow stripes.

Their main sponsor is Pointsbet, a gambling company, and their home stadium is named after a beer - Four Pines Stadium. Alcohol and gambling are not exactly the most harmless things to take the field and represent. 

A commenter on Reddit shared a similar opinion to Bungard, pointing out the fact that gambling can do real damage to people's lives, but players are taking a stand against a bit of colour on a shirt.

Another factor playing into the scrutiny is the fact rugby involves a lot of man-on-man action, with sweat flying, bodies colliding, and a whole lot of butt-slapping. 

One Redditor said "I bet they all tap each other's butt and kiss each other on the cheek at one point tho."

An Instagram commenter said the sport is built for a pride stripe: "a sport where grown men tackle, grope and basically dry hump over a ball...if pride doesn't belong on a football jersey, I don't know what does..."

You've got to wonder how far the players' hatred of rainbows really goes: Manly are playing the Roosters this weekend, sitting at 8 and 9 on the table respectively, both teams have 20 points and are only separated by point differential.

The game this weekend is HUGE, the winner has a much higher chance of making the playoffs - especially with the regular season almost over. 

Their teammates' legacies, contracts, and livelihoods can be altered greatly with a playoff run. Is that worth throwing away over a rainbow stripe?

Ian Roberts, a legend of the club having played over 100 games for Manly, came out as gay in 1995 and says he’s gutted to see players from the club he put his body on the line for make such a disappointing decision. 

“I try to see it from all perspectives but this breaks my heart” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“It’s sad and uncomfortable. As an older gay man, this isn’t unfamiliar. I did wonder whether there would be any religious pushback. That’s why I think the NRL have never had a Pride round."

“I can promise you every young kid on the northern beaches who is dealing with their sexuality would have heard about this.”

Back in 2019, All Black TJ Perenara responded to homophobic comments made by Aussie rugby player Israel Folau. Perenara said:

"It's not an attitude I want to see in the game I love. There is no justification for such harmful comments."

"To anyone, young Māori/Pasifika people especially, who may be struggling with their identity - please know that it is okay to be you. You are perfect as you are. Do not let these comments keep you from being yourself. Polynesia has been sexually diverse since forever."

Facts, TJ.