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Values more important than winning, says Manly chairman as Christians boycott over Pride jerseys

by Reuters Journalist
Manly pride jersey.png - Banner image
Manly Media

Standing firm on values is more important than winning, Manly Sea Eagles chairman Scott Penn said, as the National Rugby League (NRL) club counted the cost of a player boycott over a pride jersey.

A severely depleted Manly slumped to a 20-10 defeat to the Sydney Roosters at their home Brookvale Oval on Wednesday, a result that could crush their hopes of qualifying for the playoffs.

Seven Manly players, who objected to wearing a jersey promoting "inclusiveness" for the match on religious and cultural grounds, were barred from the stadium over fears for their safety amid a backlash from LGBT groups.

"If we had have backed down on the jersey, we felt that we were saying that people aren't welcome," Penn told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"[That] couldn't be further from what we stand for.

"The club is — and what we stand for is — more important than absolute results for one game."

The players, most of whom are Polynesian Christians, have been branded bigots and homophobic on social media but also praised by church leaders and conservative pundits for taking a stand against Manly's compulsory jersey directive. 

Coach Des Hasler said this week Manly management had failed to consult his playing group over the jersey and apologised for the club's mishandling of the initiative.

Penn said Manly would "take some learnings" out of the furore but was committed to wearing the jersey next year and would consult more broadly with players.

NRL boss Peter V'landy said the league could introduce a "Pride round" next season to promote inclusion.

However, Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans questioned whether players should be required to do more to push diversity and inclusion themes.

"As a player I think we need to be really careful about how much we push on to the players to commercialise the game," he told reporters after Manly's defeat.

"If you look at a dressing room as an NRL squad, it is very diverse and it is very inclusive so I just wonder how much we need to do as athletes, I guess, to push out there.

"Unfortunately when people get put in a position to have to do something they don't want to do, then I think that's when you see positions like tonight."

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