Here we go again. A group of football players, citing their religious beliefs, are resurrecting a culture war previously fought by shunned rugby star Israel Folau by refusing to wear his team’s new pride jersey.
Seven players from NRL’s Manly Sea Eagles are reported to have withdrew from the decider on Thursday night against the Sydney Roosters because the club’s jersey this round includes – get ready to grab the pearls – some rainbow stripes.
Here’s the message these stripes are supposed to carry, as explained by Tyler Rakic, whose clothing company Dynasty Sport collaborated with Manly on the design.
“Sport is one of those wonderful things when people from all walks of life come together and participate in everything without exception. This jersey is a celebration of that,” Mr. Rakic said today.
“The design itself maintains Manly’s iconic DNA with a striped design and maroon, but with a subtle incorporation of rainbow colors that are a tribute to inclusiveness for everyone in the league.”
“The Sea Eagles have such a rich and varied history in rugby league and in society,” added interim Manly CEO Gary Woolman.
“We are delighted to be able to share such an important message that means so much to so many people in the community.”
So we have a football club that recognizes its influence in society and uses that influence to make people feel welcome, included and accepted.
Imagine that you disagree with this message so much and find it so inconsistent with your beliefs that you are ready to throw your teammates under the bus, missing your club’s most important game of the season.
I’m not exaggerating. Both the Sea Eagles and the Roosters are in contention for places in the bottom half of the top eight; Thursday night’s result could decide which team advances to the final.
But that’s not the point, is it? These young people would be just as misguided if it were a first-round game or a pointless trial match.
Undoubtedly, we will soon hear a lot of rhetoric about freedom of speech and religion, which both veins important elements of a liberal society.
We will hear that every member of the Courageous Seven is discriminated against for trying to stand up for the moral teachings of their faith.
It’s curious, isn’t it, that these moral teachings are so often, so obsessively focused on what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms without harming anyone. One can be forgiven for thinking that there are more serious problems.
Let’s consider one more, rather revealing detail on the jersey, which offended the players in question. Between the two rainbow stripes, in huge white letters is the name of Manly’s main sponsor: PointsBet.
None of the rebels, in their great moral zeal, expressed any doubts about the promotion of gambling, despite its corrosive effect on those who become addicted. The word PointsBet was stuck on their chest all season long.
They did not object to the fact that their homeland was named after the brewery, when alcoholism takes so many lives.
Hell, less than two years ago, what is now 4 Pines Park was officially called Lottoland. No squeak, no protest about it.
But to welcome gays to rugby league what go too far What outrageous. How dare Manly support boys and girls who dream of playing sports but fear they will be bullied or ridiculed for who they are.
You read about the supposed meaning of the pride jersey earlier. No one is asked to dress in leather and attend the Mardi Gras parade. No man is forced to run with the words “I like same-sex sex” on his chest.
It’s just a message that everyone is welcome in rugby league.
Rejecting him, these players are dismissive of these teenagers. Implicit message from them is: you are not welcome. You are not accepted. Get out of our sport.
It is a hateful attitude, and the fact that its origin lies in Scripture makes it no less harmful to those who can bear it.
Here, I’ll concede to the players on one point: Manly should have consulted with them during the design process. It was revealed on Monday evening that some of them only learned about the jersey through the media. It absolutely shouldn’t have happened this way.
But the argument we’re already hearing from the Anti-Wake Brigade that the club is inappropriately leaning towards politics is nonsense.
“How about sports teams play sports and leave politics to those who are elected to politics? For example, one Nation politician Mark Latham suggested.
This thesis has already been raised many times in previous debates, but if it has not yet been assimilated, we better repeat it: accepting people as they are – what they are born with and cannot change – is not politics. No, it’s not. POLITICS. This is basic human decency.
When religion is at its best, it inspires people to embody that decency; be compassionate, kind and generous; treat others with respect and help those in need. Much good has been done in the name of religion.
And great harm. Because at its worst, a religion can sow discord, prejudice, and cruelty towards those who do not conform to its teachings.
It is sad and more than infuriating that in 2022, in a liberal society like ours, this kind of prejudice persists. But at least it’s bullshit. Manley should be commended for trying to make his contribution, no matter how small.
The Manly Rebels should be allowed to skip this week’s game if they so choose, and return to the roster in the next round. They should not be subject to sanctions or suspension.
Their refusal to wear the jersey design forced upon them by their club, while disappointing, is different from what Folau did. go out of their way to post rotten, confrontational messages to gays.
“ATTENTION, homosexuals, HELL WILL BE FOR YOU,” for example. Charming little thing.
But these young people must be criticized. Their views must be questioned and tested. Otherwise, as a society, we implicitly say that there is no problem with their attitude.
In the meantime, I want my club (the Roosters, who will coincidentally benefit from the Manly riots here) to come up with their own equivalent jersey. And I want our players, all of them, to wear it with pride.
Originally published as Bill details in Manly pride jersey expose empty protest boycotting NRL stars