Rugby league's first openly gay player calls Josh Aloiai 'ignorant' for refusing to wear rainbow pride jersey
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Manly legend Ian Roberts has called Josh Aloiai ‘ignorant’ for not supporting the club’s pride jersey.
The 57-year-old became the first rugby league player to openly come out as gay in 1995 while he was in the back end of his Sea Eagles career.
He took exception to seven players from his former club who refused to don a pride jersey representing a few rainbow stripes in Round 20 of last season.
Jason Saab, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau'atu and Tolutau Koula joined Aloiai in boycotting the jersey because of their religious and cultural beliefs.
Aloiai broke his silence over the ordeal last week in which he stood by his decision and maintained that the seven players were still accepting of other people’s choices.
The 26-year-old told 9News: “We didn't compromise this year and we won't compromise next year or the year after.
“You should never be put in that situation where your religious or cultural views or beliefs conflict with your job.”
Roberts took exception to the ‘hypocritical’ comments.
The former Blues player told Sydney Morning Herald: “Why isn’t he going to wear the jumper? I still don’t think I’ve heard a deep enough reason for him to say that.
“He sounds very ignorant. He says: ‘We’re accepting of all people. But I draw the line at wearing a rainbow’.
“He’s saying he is loving and Christian but the acceptance isn’t for everyone. It’s contradictory and it’s hypocritical.”
Manly became the first team in the sport’s history to wear a jersey celebrating and standing with the LGBTQIA+ community.
However, the jersey divided the locker room and ultimately led to the club losing their round 20 tie to Sydney Roosters.
The loss sparked a significant drop in form as the club failed to win any of their seven final games and led to former coach Des Hasler losing his job.
Aloiai revealed that he and his family had received death threats over his decision to ditch the jersey.
While Roberts disagreed with the New Zealander’s stance, he maintained that none of the players involved should have received threats as a result.
He said: “I suppose the thing that upset me most about it initially was that he and the other boys had death threats.
“I really do hope that the club or the NRL chases this up because it’s something that’s just totally unacceptable.
“I would say it’s not unfamiliar for anyone in the queer community, particularly my age. [...] Because he is getting death threats that’s the reason we need a pride round for inclusion and acceptance.”
Featured Image Credit: Ch10/NRL/Supplied.
Topics: Australia, Rugby League, NRL