STATEMENT: Manly Sea Eagles pride jersey

This week Manly Sea Eagles released their ‘Everyone in League’ pride jersey for this Thursday’s game, making them the first club in rugby league history to wear a jersey celebrating LGBTIQA+ inclusion, yet the decision has divided communities with 7 players boycotting the match pride jersey. Below we explain the impact of this issue on LGBTIQA+ South Australians.

Everyone deserves to feel a sense of safety and belonging in sports, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.

Pride games allow LGBTIQA+ players, staff and fans to show pride in being their authentic selves in sporting environments and create visibility for positive role models, relationships and stories that enhance the mental health of queer people.

Importantly, they continue conversations about the importance of homophobia, transphobia and and discrimination in sporting communities.

Long histories of homophobia and discrimination in sports mean LGBTIQA+ people often feel unsafe to be their authentic selves in sporting communities, resulting in damaging ramifications for our mental and physical health. 

Yet the impacts of discrimination in sport is not a thing of the past. A recent study on the experiences of LGBTQA+ Australians aged 14-21 showed that only 28.8% of those who played sports had disclosed their sexuality and/ or gender identity to teammates (Writing themselves in 4, 2020).

This is why actions like boycotting pride themed jerseys are so harmful to LGBTIQA+ communities, because they perpetuate messages our community have heard for decades: that we’re not welcome in sport because of our pride. 

The platform that sport has in Australian society has the power to create positive change towards inclusion for all of us. But this can only be achieved when symbolic actions like wearing a pride jersey are matched with tangible conversations, education and building understanding amongst sporting communities. Actions like training of players and staff, providing all-gendered facilities and sharing voices of LGBTIQA+ people’s experiences in sport are just some ways that sporting clubs can meaningfully create a culture of inclusion.

Here in South Australia, our LGBTIQA+ community is proudly supported by many of our key sporting bodies. 

In the rugby world, The Adelaide University Sharks are Adelaide’s first LGBTQIA+ inclusive rugby team with over 25 gay guys on the team.

At the elite level, Adelaide United partnered with Pride Cup earlier this year to hold the A-League’s inaugural Pride Game after Josh Cavallo came out as the first openly gay active A-League player. Likewise, the AFLW proudly celebrate the annual Pride Round alongside LGBTIQA+ supporter groups Rainbow Crows and Port Adelaide Queer Squad.

At the community level, sporting groups like Queer Sporting Alliance, Adelaide Frontrunners, Adelaide Spikers, Adelaide Happy Wanderers and Climbing QTs South Australia all support LGBTIQA+ South Australians to participate in sports.

It’s this strong sense of LGBTIQA+ community in sports that keeps us fighting for a future where all LGBTIQA+ South Australians can play with Pride.

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