Ian Roberts on Manly Sea Eagles Pride jersey fiasco, plans for annual Pride tour
Gay rugby league icon Ian Roberts fears the furor over the Manly Pride shirt is contributing to the suicides of young LGBTQ people.
Roberts’ grave warning followed the decision of several Sea Eagles players to refuse to wear a rainbow-adorned jersey to celebrate the club’s inaugural initiative, Everyone in the League.
In what has turned into an embarrassing saga for the club, head coach Des Hasler and captain Daly Cherry-Evans were forced into a big media brief on Tuesday where Hasler apologized for ‘mistakes’ committed by not properly consulting the players.
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The unfortunate impact is the negative attention that has now been given to an event designed to embrace marginalized LGBTQ communities.
Roberts came out in 1995 and is to date the only male professional rugby league player in the world to do so.
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“It’s very personal to me as an older gay man because I’ve lost friends to suicide,” Roberts told media on Tuesday.
“I wish I could sit around a table with these players and explain to them that unfortunately there are children in the suburbs, in the regions today, who may not have heard a lot of stories over the past month, but I can promise you they’ve heard this story.
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“Those are the kinds of consequences that happen when there’s a pushback with things like that, that’s what prejudice and discrimination do.
“I wasn’t surprised there was a pushback, and it saddens me a bit. I think of the far-reaching consequences…it’s tough language to hear, but there are kids in the suburbs who commit suicide.
“They’re the type of consequences we’re talking about.”
Roberts has been lobbying the NRL for several years to introduce an annual Pride round, to the same vain as the Aboriginal round and Women’s round in the league.
ARLC President Peter V’landys confirmed on Tuesday that a Pride Round would be launched as early as next season.
But this week’s saga shows there will be resistance from a faction of NRL players when the time comes.
Roberts wants to help educate everyone about the importance of such initiatives and work together to strike a happy medium.
“I totally respect their point of view, but there needs to be a conversation. We need to sit down and talk to each other civilly,” he said.
“While I’m disappointed, I can also see that as a positive because it’s again a starting point for the NRL to have those conversations about what a Pride Round is, the essence of what is a Pride Round.
“As an older gay man, it’s not unheard of. That’s all I can say. We need these Pride Rounds…education is what it’s all about.”
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