Pride jersey stirs nationwide debate in Australia

Seven Christian rugby league players boycott crucial game as reports reveal they were the last to know about club's controversial Pride marketing push

Pride jersey stirs nationwide debate in Australia
Hugh Jackman models the controversial jersey / Instagram
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Two of Australia's biggest celebrities were aware of Manly's controversial pride jersey weeks ago as the players with deeply-held religious views were kept in the dark.

The seven players who have refused to wear the jersey, Josh Aloiai, Christian Tuipulotu, Jason Saab, Tolu Koula, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau'atu and Toafofoa Sipley, will miss Thursday night's critical game against the Sydney Roosters.

It has been revealed actors Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth knew about the jersey long before the players found out as part of marketing push for the jersey.

Manly supporter Jackman had even modelled the jersey two weeks ago as part of a promotion that had been in the works for more than a year behind the scenes.

Hemsworth also was sent the pride jersey in an bid to lure him to the blockbuster match as a guest of Sea Eagles legend Ian Roberts, the sport's first rugby league player to come out as gay in 1995.

The seven players, who all hold strong Christian beliefs, say they were blindsided by the marketing move which has reportedly been in the works for over a year with sponsorships and campaigns lined up without any consultation with players.

The historic jersey has been a commercial success selling out in the men’s, women's and kids section of Manly's website just hours after the boycott.

The jersey is said to 'celebrate inclusivity', with the traditional white piping replaced by rainbow lines.

"The players will not play on Thursday and we accept their decision," Manly coach Des Hasler said in a press conference.

"These young men are strong in their beliefs and convictions and we will give them the space and support they require.

"The playing group are solid and understanding of each other's views. As a club we will wear the jersey on Thursday night."

The debacle has led to a nationwide debate, with some Australian commentators arguing the players should have been consulted ahead of the decision and others criticising them for refusing to comply with the cause and pull on the rainbow colours.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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