How the NBL provided a Pride Round blueprint for the NRL to follow

The NRL could follow in the footsteps of Australian basketball when it comes to planning its own Pride Round.

The NBL's Pride Round came after Melbourne United centre Isaac Humphries came out as gay in November, 2022. Pic: Getty
The NBL's Pride Round came after Melbourne United centre Isaac Humphries came out as gay in November, 2022. Pic: Getty

NRL bosses have more immediate matters to deal with right now as they wade through a civil war with players ahead of the 2023 season. However, Australian basketball may have given it a blueprint to follow should it get serious about introducing a Pride round.

The National Basketball League took on the controversial issue this weekend when it launched Pride Round – and it's fair to say the organisation learned a fair bit on the run. The biggest drama centred on the Cairns Taipans after all 11 players opted out of wearing the rainbow pride logo on their jerseys after a "barrage of abuse and harmful commentary that has led to individuals being targeted and shamed".

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Isaac Humphries, the NBL's only openly gay player, expressed his disappointment at the Taipans' decision. The Sydney Kings backed Brazilian import Tim Soares after he decided not to wear the logo due to religious beliefs.

"Individual players from all clubs were invited to participate. It was not an obligation placed upon players," the club said in a statement.

There were no objections from players on the move to display the rainbow pride logo on all courts during the round and the initial feedback is the weekend has been a positive experience in general, albeit with plenty to work and build on in the future.

It's a start at the very least. Which brings us to the NRL.

NRL weighing up possibility of Pride Round in 2023

Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V'landys has previously indicated a Pride Round was on the agenda for the 2023 season despite Manly's ill-conceived and ill-fated rainbow jersey fiasco last season. There are no details on when the round might be held or how it would be rolled out, but the NBL's opt in rather than opt out stance would be the obvious starting point for the NRL, as is basketball's level of communication between governing body and players/clubs.

Seen here, Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V'landys speaks with media at a press conference.
Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V'landys says discussions have taken place around an NRL Pride Round in 2023. Pic: Getty

Under the same guidelines, NRL players would be free to decide for themselves whether to wear the rainbow logo on their jersey and join in the inclusivity message. Inevitably, this would still create some division, controversy and debate, but the growing belief is rugby league will have to remove the issue from the too hard basket and make a strong call.

And sooner rather than later. Cronulla front-rower Toby Rudolf, who was open in his support of the LGBTQIA+ community during the Manly drama, has urged the game to get a move on and introduce a Pride round this year.

"I can’t see how it wouldn’t be a good thing. I think it will do wonders for the game, wonders for the community," he told Fox Sports.

"If you can get an entire sport behind it, it promotes the positivity."

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