Manly bars boycotting players from stadium over safety concerns
Manly has banned its seven boycotting players from their home stadium for their NRL match against the Sydney Roosters amid safety concerns.
The seven decided this week to stand down from the National Rugby League match rather than play in a jersey symbolising “inclusiveness”, drawing criticism from LGBTQ groups and the club’s first openly gay player Ian Roberts.
Manly officials spoke with police and decided the players’ presence at Sydney’s Brookvale Oval would pose a threat to their safety.
“For the safety and wellbeing of the players, the club has decided that it’s best that they don’t attend the game,” Manly interim Chief Executive Gary Wolman told The Australian newspaper.
New South Wales Police said police officers had conducted a “risk assessment” and were satisfied with “the strategies in place to mitigate any risk to the players and attendees’ safety and security.”
They added that police had received no formal reports of threats made toward players.
Manly coach Des Hasler said this week the seven objected to the pride jersey, which has rainbow bands replacing the team’s white stripes, on “religious and cultural” grounds.
He said the club accepted their position and would provide support to them.
The players, most of whom are Polynesian Christians, have been branded bigots and homophobic on social media.
However, the seven have also been praised by church leaders and defended by conservative pundits who have pilloried Manly for “virtue signalling” and condemned the club for failing to consult the players over the pride jersey.
Gay athletes have said the boycott could discourage sports people from coming out for fear they might lack support in club change-rooms.
“To not have this support from your team mates can be devastating to a closeted player,” local soccer player Josh Cavallo, who came out last year, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
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