Manly coach Des Hasler has slammed the club’s handling of its pride jersey initiative, labelling it a ‘significant mistake.’
Seven Manly players will boycott the clash with the Roosters on Thursday night after refusing to wear the jersey because of religious and cultural beliefs.
Hasler would not confirm exactly which players will sit out the match but they are reported to be Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula, Christian Tuipulotu and Toafofoa Sipley.
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The missing players will be confirmed when team lists are released this afternoon.
Manly announced on Sunday that it would introduce a game-first pride jersey for its game this week, with the usual white stripes to be replaced by rainbow stripes.
But it failed to consult players or coaching staff, sending the club into turmoil.
An emergency meeting was held with players on Monday night where seven of them confirmed they would sit out this weekend.
An emotional Hasler fronted the media on Tuesday alongside captain Daly Cherry-Evans where he apologised for how the initiative has been managed.
“The jersey intent was to support the advocacy and human rights pertaining to gender, race, culture, ability and LGBTQ rights. Sadly, the execution of what was intended to be an extremely important initiative was poor,” Hasler told reporters.
“There was little consultation or collaboration with key stakeholders both inside and outside the club.
“Sadly, this poor management and project management has caused significant confusion, discomfort and pain for many people. In particular, those groups whose human right we were, in fact, attempting to support.
“We wish to sincerely apologise for the mistakes we have made. We wish to apologise to the minority groups within the community who embrace the rainbow colours as a symbol of pride in who they are, what they stand for and their impassioned advocacy to enhance basic tolerance and acceptance within the diversity and inclusion space.”
Hasler says he accepts the players’ decision to stand down from Thursday’s clash, apologising to those in the playing group who have been impacted.
“We accept your cultural beliefs and hope that you can accept our apologies.
“If we had suitably cooperated with key stakeholders, both internally and externally, we would have cultivated, hopefully, a more suitable trust that would have ideally led to our action.
“Our intent was to be caring and compassionate towards all diverse groups who face inclusion issues daily, however instead of enhancing tolerance and acceptance, we may have hindered this. This was the
opposite of our intent.”
Hasler says the club will continue to support those players who will boycott the game.
Cherry-Evans also backed the players’ decision despite the impact it may have on Manly’s finals hopes.
But he urges fans to back those players who will happily wear the jersey on Thursday night, including himself.
“There are going to be 17 players out there celebrating inclusiveness and diversity so I think hopefully we can start to shift our attention towards the good intentions that were had,” Cherry-Evans.
“I’m going to be out there proudly wearing the jersey to try to endorse inclusiveness and diversity and eventually, once we get over the fact that people have made a decision not to play, there are people making a decision to be out there.
“I’d encourage them to get out there and support us on Thursday.”