Ian Roberts, the first out gay rugby league player, has addressed the Manly pride jersey boycott

Roberts, a former Manly Sea Eagles himself publicly came out in 1995 while playing for Manly.

‘Breaks My Heart’

Seven Manly Players To Boycott NRL Match Over Gay Pride Jersey

Roberts told Fox Sports that the controversy “breaks my heart.”

He went on to say, “I fully respect those players who are choosing not to play and their right not to play, with their religious beliefs. I would love, given the opportunity, to be able to sit down at a table with those guys and just have an open conversation with them.

“And to try to explain what a Pride Round means, particularly for the LGBTQIA+ community, what it means to us individually.”

Roberts said that Pride Rounds are about being welcoming, inclusive, and making people feel valid and seen.

“It isn’t a thing of exclusivity. It’s just about welcoming and saying to the LGBTQIA+ community, you’re part of the greater community and you’re welcome here.”

‘I’ve Seen the Consequences of What Homophobia and Transphobia Can Do’

Stressing why a Pride Round is so vital and the potential consequences of this player backlash, Roberts said, “I’ve lost friends to suicide and I’ve seen the consequences of what homophobia, transphobia, and all the phobias can do to people.”

He continued, “There are kids out in the suburbs, out in the regions, who may not have heard many stories lately. But I promise you, they’ve heard this story.

“I don’t want to start quoting the terrible statistics that we know about the LGBTQIA+ community and self-harm.

“But those are the types of consequences that come when there is pushback against stuff like this. This is what discrimination can do.”

Why Pride Jersey Is An Important Gesture

Model and former Rugby player Casey Conway tweeted about the controversy and reiterated how important the initiative is . 

Conway wrote, “Wearing a pride jersey shows that you are an inclusive, respectful and progressive team. And you will be promoting the values of the NRL, the things that make rugby league great.

“This initiative is great for a club and the game. Think of the kids out there that see this and breathe a sigh of relief for they see another safe space. Think of the NRLW players that are out and proud and leading in a way these men clearly won’t and don’t care about.”

On Tuesday, July 26, Citing cultural and religious beliefs, seven Manly players said they were withdrawing from Thursday’s game against the Sydney Roosters over the Sea Eagles’ decision to wear the pride jersey to promote inclusivity.

The seven players are Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Josh Aloiai, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley.

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