Australia: Rugby players boycott LGBT shirt, controversy mounts

theThe initiative of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles club is welcome. But the reaction of some of his players, creates a stir. According to the BBC, on Tuesday July 26, seven players from the north-east Sydney-based club decided to boycott a key match to allow the team to qualify for the National Rugby League finals. The reason ? The club’s authorities have decided to change the team’s shirt to promote the LGBT cause, while incidents of homophobia are still very numerous in the sports sector, worldwide. However, the rugby players would not have been consulted about this decision, say those affected. They invoke religious and cultural reasons to explain their boycott.

Quickly rumored by the local media, this boycott sparked outrage in Australia. However, the team’s coach, Des Hasler, has not condemned the attitude of his players at all. During a press conference, he spoke of an “important mistake” made by the club. In this case, not having associated the players with this decision. According to him, this management caused “confusion, discomfort and pain to many people, especially the groups whose rights we were trying to support.”

Terrible news also at the sporting level

And this, before apologizing to the LGBT community… but also to the actors involved. “They were not included in any of the discussions and at the very least they should have been consulted,” he said on Tuesday (July 26). In a statement, club officials apologized “for the handling of the situation”, reports the BBC.

From a sporting point of view, this boycott is terrible news. In fact, according to the rules promulgated by the Australian National Rugby League, it is impossible for players on the same team to wear a different shirt. However, with seven refractory, the team is in a very bad state to face a match, scheduled for Thursday, crucial to allow the club to reach the League final.

“What angers me is that players will boycott a rainbow, but they will never boycott a teammate if they have been accused of violence against women or any other morally wrong behavior that those same players would agree with. not tolerate,” said sports reporter Pam Whaley. he wrote on Twitter. In social networks, many Internet users have denounced the attitude of the players.

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Homosexuality, a taboo in Australian sport

Faced with this boycott, former club figure Ian Roberts has spoken. At Daily Telegraph Sydney, said he was “saddened” saying the players’ decision “broke his heart”. A reaction even more understandable since he was the first player in the Australian league to announce his homosexuality. ” Do you not understand the pain inflicted on homosexuals who, no matter what they do, are disrespected simply because they are homosexual? he wrote in a column published by another Australian newspaper.

In 2021, an Australian rules football player, Haneen Zreika, also refused to wear a rainbow shirt. At the time, he cited religious reasons, as did the seven Manly players. Even today, homosexuality is taboo in Australian sport. According to Ian Roberts and other observers, homophobia remains prevalent among fans and athletes alike. Thus, in 2019, rugby player Israel Folau was dismissed by the Australian federation. He had posted several anti-gay messages on social media between 2015 and 2019. Later, threatened with legal action, the Federation apologized to the player.

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