Ian Roberts, who became the first rugby league player to come out as gay while playing for Manly in 1995, has responded to the Sea Eagles pride jersey controversy, admitting that it “breaks my heart”.
The former Kangeroo and Sea Eagles star told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph: “It’s sad and uncomfortable. As an older gay man, this isn’t unfamiliar. I did wonder whether there would be any religious pushback. 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.”
The Sea Eagles announced on Sunday night they would wear a rainbow design for the match, generally known for representing the LGBTQI community.
By Monday night the jersey had sold out on the club’s online store in all men’s and women’s sizes, with only junior versions of the strip available.
That comes despite the club’s popular retro Pepsi jersey from the 1990s and Community jersey, both of which have been worn in the past fortnight, still having some stock available for sale.
But the design has not proven as popular with members of the team.
The decision to wear the jersey has caused unrest among several players, who also claim they only learned of the strip on social media on Sunday night and were not previously consulted.
Among the concerns for select players is uneasy questions that will arise within their culture or religion from wearing the jersey.
The issue prompted a lengthy meeting of Sea Eagles management on Monday night, where it was again requested that players wear the “Everyone in League” design.
However players have not agreed to do so, with up to seven set to sit out the match against the Roosters.