Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
In the lead-up to their round 20 clash with the Sydney Roosters during season 2022 the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles announced that they would be wearing a pride jersey to show their support for LGBTQ rights.
This turned out to be a controversial decision as seven players refused to wear the jersey due to their personal beliefs and sat out of the game as a result.
Despite the minor boycott the Sea Eagles still wore the decisive jersey in their eventual loss to the Roosters.
While it was controversial the jersey proved to be a commercial success as it sold out before the game had ever occurred.
ARL Chairman Peter V’Landys doubled down and not only supported Manly’s decision to wear a pride jersey but revealed that the NRL is considering introducing a pride round.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s released an article today where their Chief Sports Editor Andrew Webster wrote about why he believes the NRL should not push forth with the concept.
“The simple truth is rugby league is not ready for a Pride Round,” said Webster.
“It might never be.
ANDREW WEBSTER: The rainbow jersey scandal at Manly showed how divided the game remains, decades after Ian Roberts made history as the first footballer to come out publicly. https://t.co/Qb7nV2m8kQ
— SMH Sport (@SMHsport) November 9, 2022
“A jumper with some subtle rainbow piping divided a club, ruined a season and ended in a coach being sacked.
“What would happen to the game if a Pride Round was forced on it?
“I’ll take a swing: it would tear it in three, just like the Israel Folau issue and the time former chief executive Todd Greenberg said the game supported same-sex marriage.
“In one camp, there are players and fans who, according to their religious beliefs, think homosexuality is a sin.
“In another camp, there are players and fans who understand that sexuality, like race and gender, is not “politics”, nor is it a “lifestyle” or “belief” or “choice” and can’t believe we are still having this discussion.”
There has been no official word regarding the pride round initiative since V’Landys statement earlier this year but if a pride round is set to be introduced in 2023 it will likely be announced when the NRL draw is revealed for next season.
A pride round will undoubtedly cause some form of division for some in the Rugby League community but its impact and the consequences for the game cannot truly be determined unless it happens.