Former England international forward James Graham believes the seven Manly players who are boycotting Thursday’s match against Sydney are “overreacting”.
Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Josh Aloiai, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley have all refused to wear the jersey because of their religious beliefs.
Manly released the shirt on Monday, and called it their “Everyone in League” jersey. It features the colours of the Pride flag to celebrate the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people.
While Graham said he understands the players’ religious beliefs, he says it is not worth missing a game over.
“For me personally I think it is an overreaction from the players,” Graham said on NRL 360. “It is just a few colours on a jersey. It is not worth missing a game over.
“You can have your beliefs, but really? This is your hill you are going to die on? It is just not worth it. Just accept it and just crack on.”
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Manly coach apologises in Press Conference
Meanwhile, Manly Head Coach Des Hasler apologised for the saga in front of the media in a pre-prepared statement.
Hasler said: “The jersey’s intent was to support the advocacy and human rights pertaining to gender, race, culture, ability and LGBTQ movements.
“Sadly, the execution of what was intended to be an extremely important initiative was poor. There was little consultation or collaboration between key stakeholders, both inside and outside the club.
“We wish to apologise to the LGBTQ community who embrace the rainbow colour for pride and advocacy and human rights issues- we accept your cultural beliefs and hope that you can accept our apology.
“We wish to apologise to the Australian Rugby League Commission, all the NRL and the other 15 NRL clubs for creating negative news, shifting the spotlight from the launch of the Women in League round.
“And we wish to apologise to our own playing group and staff for any confusion, discomfort and pain that the mistake we have made may have caused them.”