NRLW star Karina Brown has revealed her anger at the situation involving several NRL players declining to wear a rainbow jersey for Manly, saying the controversy left her upset and disappointed.
Seven Sea Eagles have opted to miss this weekend’s NRL match against Sydney Roosters rather than wear the club’s “everyone in league” jersey, which has rainbow colours taking up the normal white space in Manly’s strip.
The club revealed the design on Monday, hoping to recognise minority groups such as the LGBTQI community pushing for more acceptance and basic human rights.
Manly has made the call to go ahead with wearing the jersey despite coach Des Hasler admitting it should have consulted players before going ahead with the strip while also apologising for the resulting furore on the club’s behalf.
The seven players will all sit out the match, in a significant blow to Manly’s finals hopes, citing religious, cultural and family concerns.
Brown, who was famously photographed after the 2018 women’s State of Origin match kissing her then-partner Vanessa Foliaki, having played on opposing teams, said the controversy had a profound effect on her.
“It did trigger me, if I’m honest,” the Queensland and Australian representative told the On Her Game podcast. “I felt a bit enraged and frustrated and then I decided to dig a bit deeper and try and get the whole story … it’s actually not even a pride jersey which makes it even worse.
“This jersey is a Women in League round jersey and it’s ‘everyone in league’ … whether you love someone of the same sex or whether you love Jesus Christ, there’s a place for you here in rugby league.”
The stance of the Manly players has split rugby league, with different sets of players voicing concerns about the handling of the matter.
Manly will be the first team in the 114-year history of the competition to wear a rainbow jersey and Brown, a two-time World Cup winner, said the controversy was a disappointing outcome for such a momentous step by the club.
“To get upset about a jersey with a few added extra colours on the piping to represent everyone in league, not just pride, I was just astounded that was a stance that some players have taken,” she said.
“It’s just so important. People are realising that discrimination is so hurtful in this society and so we’re trying to do something about it. Definitely frustrating that we’re still talking about it but it does still exist. I can see now why we don’t have an NRL Pride round.”
ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys indicated on Tuesday the NRL would be open to implementing a Pride round by 2023.