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A former English rugby league star has responded to the recent LGBTQIA+ jersey saga engulfing the Manly Sea Eagles.
Openly-gay ex-player Keegan Hirst says it's rather ironic that the group are boycotting wearing the pride kit because he's seen 'what goes on in changing rooms' and it 'would be seen as being MUCH gayer' than simply wearing a rainbow jersey for a game.
The Manly Sea Eagles have made headlines across the world this week after releasing their 'Everyone in League' jersey – unfortunately, though, it wasn't for the right reasons.
What was meant to be a positive move to drive inclusivity soon turned sour when several players threatened to boycott their next game after refusing to wear the club’s rainbow strip.
Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley have been named as the players in question and will subsequently miss their next fixture after being stood down on religious grounds.
The saga hasn't painted anyone involved in a particularly pleasant light with both the players and the club itself coming under fire.
A number of big-name figures have had their say on the matter, including the NRL's first and only openly-gay player Ian Roberts.
Now Hirst, who came out as gay in 2015 during his time in the UK Super League, has hit out at the Sea Eagles players.
“I’d be interested to hear what which religious and cultural beliefs stop you wearing a shirt with a rainbow on but not one that promotes gambling etc?” Hirst tweeted.
The ironic thing about the @SeaEagles Pride/player boycott saga is that I know what goes on in RL changing rooms. And a lot of it would be seen as being MUCH “gayer” than a rainbow on a jersey….— Keegan Hirst (@KeeganHirst) July 27, 2022
Hey @SeaEagles, I’d be honoured to wear your Pride shirt. As should all your players.— Keegan Hirst (@KeeganHirst) July 26, 2022
Shame on the ones who aren’t.
“Hey @SeaEagles, I’d be honoured to wear your Pride shirt. As should all your players. Shame on the ones who aren’t.
“The ironic thing about the @SeaEagles Pride/player boycott saga is that I know what goes on in RL changing rooms. And a lot of it would be seen as being MUCH ‘gayer’ than a rainbow on a jersey.”
Another Twitter user then responded, saying: "To me there is no such person as a gay person. All people are equal no need for gay pride."
To which Hirst replied: "Dave, I wish that were the case. Unfortunately people are not treated equally. Gay people are frequently ostracised, ridiculed, beaten and even killed simply for being gay. That doesn’t happen because you’re straight. Not once. That is just the sad truth."
He then went on to add: “Sure, differences are inevitable. We should embrace all people with their differences. Gay people around the world are still executed, arrested and persecuted for being gay. The shirt is essentially representing that everyone is welcome. Boycotting the shirt goes the other way.
“Representation matters. What does it mean to gay kids who want to play rugby? They’ve just been shown that they wouldn’t be accepted by their peers. Which the sport isn’t as inclusive as it likes to think it is. Symbolism matters. If it didn’t, those players wouldn’t care.
“Being gay isn’t a belief. A belief is a choice. Religion and the aspects of it that practice is a choice. If religious beliefs meant someone wouldn’t play with black players, would we say ‘it’s their religion, it’s OK’. No, we wouldn’t. Discrimination is discrimination.”
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