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Manly Sea Eagles head coach Des Hasler has confirmed seven players won’t feature against the Sydney Roosters following news that the group were refusing to wear the club's pride jersey.
Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley will not feature in NRL Round 20 after being stood down on religious grounds.
Hasler also said he wants to apologise for “a significant mistake” made on the club's behalf.
It was revealed that several Sea Eagles players were threatening to boycott the clash against the Chooks if they were forced to don the newly-released rainbow 'Everyone in League' strip.
The news was widely condemned by those in the rugby league community with some fans even calling for them to be sacked.
Now Manly coach Hasler has fronted the media.
“We are here today to apologise for a significant mistake made by the football club,” he said.
“As you are aware the club, yesterday, launched a jersey for a round, we applied rainbow colours to the jersey to replace all of the white spaces. In the white lines.
“The intent of the rainbow colour application of our jersey was to represent diversity and inclusion for all, utilising the symbolic colours of pride to embrace all groups who feel marginalised and faced discrimination and have a suppressed share of voice.
“The jersey intent was to support the advocacy and human rights pertaining to gender, race culture, ability and LGBTQ rights.
“Sadly, the execution of what was intended to be an extremely important and initiative was poor.
“There was little consultation or collaboration with key stakeholders. Both inside and outside the club. Sadly, this poor management and project management has caused significant confusion, discomfort and pain for many people.
“In particular, those groups whose human right we were, in fact, attempting to support. We have even adversely affected our player group, a wonderful group of people comprising of many different racial and cultural backgrounds.”
The Sea Eagles are set to become the first club in rugby league history to wear an LGBTQIA jersey during a professional match.
But Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’Landys has now had his say too, questioning why Manly didn't consult with the playing group before releasing the special edition jersey.
He did, however, show some support for the Sea Eagles players.
“I respect the players choice, they have religious and cultural differences and that’s the beauty about Australia, we all have those freedoms,” V’Landys said.
“Let me say this though, one thing I take pride in, in rugby league, is we treat everyone the same, we’re all human beings, it doesn’t matter what your colour, doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is, doesn’t matter what your race is, we’re all equal and we’ll never ever take a backward step in having our sport inclusive.
“But at the same time we will not disrespect those players’ freedoms and they’ve got those freedoms and if they don’t wish to play I respect that but they are well aware of our policy of inclusion.
“Manly could have handled it better, they could have been a lot more collaborative with the players, they should have respected the players, they shouldn’t have just sprung it upon them.
“Manly admit themselves they shouldn’t have sprung that on them.”
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