This weekend seven Manly Warringah players will not wear the pride jersey, and not take to the field. Manly coach Des Hasler said this: "Personally, I share the views that are inclusiveness across the game and society. It is an important matter, and the NRL is for everyone."
To his credit, Hasler appreciates some of the complexity of this issue. Hasler said, "The [pride] jersey intent was to support the advocacy and human rights pertaining to gender, race, culture, ability and LGBTQ movements.” This symbolic jersey has been interpreted by some as inclusive, and yet for others, it excludes.
"They are not wearing the jersey as it conflicts with their cultural and religious beliefs," Hasler said. "And I am concerned for their welfare. Their spirituality is a central part of their well-being. The club has made an error from which it will learn."
To my knowledge, Pacific nations have cultural ways of dealing with those of homosexual orientation, and they do so in ways that would not fairly be described as homophobic. For Islanders, in an honour shame collective society, pride is attached to being part of and contributing to family. Honour is attached is marriage, procreation, and continuing the family line.
The ABC notes that for Pasifika, religion is “a binding force for culture and family to rally around in good times and bad”. Some Islanders will experience the forced public support of gay pride as marginalising their religion, culture, and family structures. The three are entwined.
As I chatted to my non-Christian friends, they imagine there are some politically correct board members at Manly who exist in an echo chamber and do not appreciate the values of Pasifika players (who make up almost 50% of players). And Islanders are already among the happiest people in the world, with the lowest depression rates.
To suppose the six Islanders are simplistic and non-inclusive is akin to neo-colonialism, and exclusivist.
By Rev. David Rietveld