Journalist Paul Kent has unloaded over the ongoing pride jersey scandal that has consumed the NRL world.
Kent took aim at the Manly Sea Eagles for trying to inject its own political views on the playing group on Monday night. On Tuesday he went ever harder.
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Seven players sensationally stood themselves down after the club announced the pride jersey – featuring rainbow stripes and trim – would be worn as a one-off for their NRL match against the Sydney Roosters.
Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley were reportedly opposed to wearing the jersey due to religious beliefs.
The drama also saw a “handful of would-be first timers knock back a chance to play the game” because of similar reasons to the seven players who have stood down over the jersey.
In a fiery spiel, Kent went nuclear once again at the club and the league for hanging the players out to dry and said the club’s owner, Scott Penn, should have fronted the media today.
“Scott Penn should have done a zoom interview with everyone today, I don’t care what time it is in New York, he should have done some explaining as the owner of the club rather than put out Des and Cherry-Evans,” Kent said on NRL 360.
“The thing about this and there’s all sorts of branches off this story, but when you boil it down we are in a situation where it’s considered impolite to ask people about politics and religion, particularly strangers, and yet here we are forcing playing groups to adopt, whether you want to call it a political philosophy or not because it does get weaponized as a political argument, they are being asked to adopt that and while there’s all this inclusiveness that we speak about which I don’t know anyone that has been ostracised because of their sexual orientation in rugby league.
“Ian Roberts came out 27 years ago and I know there hasn’t been anybody come forward in lieu of that, most times when you get to the conversation about that the reason is because they don’t want to be like Ian Roberts is now where he’s forced to be the spokesman every time this becomes an issue.
“There has certainly been gay players, we know gay players and bisexual players, there’s been the whole lot. There’s players in the game now that we know of, but that’s their own private business. If they want to come out, all power to them. But they’re certainly not ostracised within the team.
“This argument that these players are not celebrating inclusiveness is ridiculous, they’ve been hung out to dry by the football club because they were not consulted before it.
“They have their own cultural and religious beliefs about why they do not want to stand for this. Straight away it gets politicised and the woke left sit there and continue to drive this agenda about rugby league being a boof head game where we don’t have the nous or the brain to sit and think our way through these situations.”
NRL 360 panellist Paul Crawley backed up Kent’s sentiment and said the issue could tear the club apart.
“Seven players have been ostracised, they’ve been vilified. They’ve gone from an attempt at inclusion and they have been excluded,” Crawley said.
“And I wonder how the Sea Eagles bounce back from this, because while they won’t play on Thursday night they have to come back into the team next week and you just don’t know how they can come back together and be one unit.”
Former NRL star James Graham held a differing view to his counterparts and couldn’t believe the players had made it such a big deal.
“It’s an over-reaction from the players, it’s a few colours on a jersey. It’s not worth missing a game over,” Graham said.
“Like you can have your beliefs, but like really this is the hill you’re going to die on. It’s just not worth it. Accept it and crack on.”