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A gay rugby league player is coming out of retirement as a protest against the seven Manly Sea Eagles players who boycotted their club's pride jersey.
Keegan Hirst, who slammed the seven players at the time of the saga, has decided the best way to tick it to them is by lacing up the boots once again to give the LGBTQIA+ community visibility on the sporting stage.
The Manly Sea Eagles made headlines across the world last 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 were named as the players in question and subsequently missed their next fixture after being stood down on religious grounds.
The entire ordeal didn't painted anyone involved in a particularly pleasant light with both the players and the club itself finding themselves under fire.
Hirst, who came out as gay in 2015 during his time in the UK Super League, was one of the many people who condemned the actions of the players.
Now the former Wakefield player has decided to respond to the boycott by coming out of retirement.
"COVID added to my own personal circumstances which made me lose touch with some of the things that I hold dearest to me; friends and rugby league," Hirst said in a statement.
"After the recent thinly-veiled homophobia over a rainbow shirt, I thought how can I help with visibility and inclusion? By lacing up my boots, putting on a playing shirt and getting back out there. That's how I help with visibility and inclusion.
"I still have plenty of games in me and I'm looking forward to helping Batley continue their incredible season."
When news first broke of the boycotting players, Hirst was quick to call them out on social media, claiming he's seen things in sports changing rooms that would be deemed 'much gayer' than simply wearing a rainbow shirt..
“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?” he tweeted.
“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.”
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