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Rugby Team Facing Full Revolt After Players Refuse to Wear 'Pride' Jerseys Announced Last-Minute

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An Australian professional rugby team may have to play without seven of its teammates after it revealed plans to wear rainbow-clad “pride” jerseys without consulting the players.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the Manly Sea Eagles of Australia’s National Rugby League released images of the jersey to the public on Monday, but it did not inform players about the jerseys beforehand. The team plans to have players wear the jerseys Thursday during its match against the Sydney Roosters.

As a result, seven players who said they felt blindsided by the decision said they would not play in the match. They did not want to wear the jerseys because of their religious beliefs.

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Officials from the club met with Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolu Koula and Toafofoa Sipley on Monday night in Australia to discuss their concerns.

The club had planned to meet with the players when they returned to training Tuesday, but it expedited the meeting in hopes of smoothing things over.

Despite the negotiation attempts, all seven players had declared their intentions to withdraw from the match as of Monday.

The Herald reported Manly coach Des Hasler understood how the club put players in a difficult position by releasing the jersey without telling them beforehand. He reportedly plans to “support their decision not to play.”

Do you support these players' decisions to not participate in the match?

One of Manly’s best-known former players is Ian Roberts, Australia’s ABC News reported. He became the first NRL player to come out as gay in 1995, and he criticized the players for making their own religious decisions.

“I try to see it from all perspectives but this breaks my heart,” Roberts said. “It’s sad and uncomfortable. As an older gay man, this isn’t unfamiliar. I did wonder whether there would be any religious push back.

“That’s why I think the NRL have never had a pride round. I can promise you every young kid on the northern beaches who is dealing with their sexuality would have heard about this.”

At the same time, many social media users said players may feel sad and uncomfortable themselves at the prospect of having to wear jerseys advocating a cause they feel is against their religious beliefs.

“What did you expect,” one Twitter user wrote. “You cannot force your views on others. I have no issue with the jersey and would wear it (if i liked manly) but that doesn’t mean i expect others to wear it. Live and let live.”

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Other users went even further and said most people who are not on the radical left are tired of the “pride” apparel making its way into sports.

Manly is in a tight battle with Sydney for one of the final postseason spots in the NRL, the Herald reported. The match on Thursday has massive postseason implications, making the decisions by seven players not to play even more impactful.

Professional teams in the United States have also seen players refuse to wear “pride” apparel. In June, at least five Major League Baseball players on the Tampa Bay Rays refused to wear rainbow versions of the team’s logos on their uniforms.

While the players did not skip the game altogether, they did remove rainbow patches from their jersey sleeves and wore the team’s traditional hats rather than special rainbow ones the team had asked them to wear.

As “pride” uniforms continue to gain popularity in sports around the world, it seems similar disputes between teams and their players are likely to continue.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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