Paul Gallen under fire over comments on Manly pride jersey furore

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Paul Gallen, pictured here during an NRL game in 2021.
Paul Gallen's comments regarding the Manly pride jersey have gone down like a lead balloon. Image: Manly Sea Eagles/Getty

NRL great Paul Gallen has come under fire for his comments regarding the Manly pride jersey debacle after suggesting the club didn't need to introduce the ground-breaking initiative 'because it's 2022'.

Seven players have stepped down from Manly's clash with the Roosters on Thursday night after refusing to wear the jersey.

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The jersey features rainbow colours taking up the normal white space on Manly's strip, in recognition of minority groups such as the LGBTQI community pushing for more acceptance and basic human rights.

Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau'atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley will all sit out the match in a significant blow to Manly's finals hopes, citing religious, cultural and family concerns over the rainbow strip.

In a 10-minute apology on Tuesday, coach Des Hasler conceded his club had made a monumental error in not consulting players before unveiling their 'everyone in league' jersey for Round 20.

But while Hasler apologised for the delivery of the groundbreaking step, Gallen said he didn't think the club needed to introduce the pride jersey at all.

The former Cronulla Sharks captain said he's supportive of the pride movement but believes Manly shouldn't have taken the focus off Women in League round.

The NRL will celebrate Women in League Round for the 16th year this weekend, an initiative that focuses on the role of female fans, players, administrators and family members.

"I don't know why Manly did this ... I mean, Women in League round is so important," he said on Channel 9.

"Every single one of us have been touched by women at some stage in our life - your mother, your missus, something.

"They should have just left it (at) Women in League round, celebrate Women in League round, celebrate all the women in our lives and just get on with it."

Paul Gallen, pictured here during an NRL game in Penrith in 2021.
Paul Gallen looks on during an NRL game in Penrith in 2021. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Paul Gallen under fire over Manly jersey comments

However Gallen angered a number of fans when he suggested there was no need to celebrate the pride movement in any round of the season.

"I don't know why they had to go the extra step and wear the rainbow jersey or the pride jersey. I mean, it's 2022," he said.

"I think everyone accepts that there are different people in life, people have different beliefs. I don't know why they wanted to promote this, to be honest ... I don't think it's the right thing to do."

Daly Cherry-Evans and Des Hasler, pictured here addressing the media after the pride jersey furore.
Daly Cherry-Evans and Des Hasler address the media after the pride jersey furore. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Former Canberra Raiders journalist Holly Hazlewood was among the many to take issue with Gallen's comments.

"I was told when I came out as trans as a journalist for NRL.com that I was lucky to work primarily with the Raiders that my decision to live authentically might not have been met as warmly by other clubs. Today's news from the Sea Eagles just proves that to be true," she tweeted.

"What Paul and others fail to see because they aren’t personally affected is no, many people in 2022 don’t accept that queer people should exist. You only have to look at various comments re action regarding this story to see that.

"And what Paul and others need to see is that this move by Sea Eagles is not about ignoring women in league. True inclusivity never comes at the cost of anything else to any other group.

"If anything this jersey celebrates queer women who are involved in, play or support the game."

Rugby player Alice Soper wrote on Twitter: "You can’t say it’s 2022 and then ignore the fact that in the year 2022, people are okay disrespecting the rainbow community.

"I respect the lifestyle choices of my religious teammates."

with AAP

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