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NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent and league legend Benny Elias have engaged in a heated on-air debate over the Manly pride jersey controversy that's left the sport divided.
The story has dominated the sporting headlines this week after seven Manly players decided they would stand down from Thursday night's game against the Roosters, in protest against wearing a specially designed inclusive jersey, featuring a rainbow design.
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Manly have told their seven boycotting players not to attend Thursday night's match for safety reasons as the fallout over the drama continues.
The Sea Eagles will wear the league's first pride jersey, but not before a week of drama that resulted in the request for players to stay at home to ensure their safety.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson was just one of many voices in the NRL community to slam the Manly players' decision to boycott the game in protest at the jersey, and advocate for inclusivity for everyone within the sport.
Addressing the controversy on NRL 360 on Wednesday night, Elias and Kent failed to see eye-to-eye in a fiery discussion on the subject.
“You’ve got great leaders like (Peter) V’Landys and Robbo who have come on TV and said we all support it and we all support this community, without a doubt, it goes without saying,” Elias said.
Kent interjected by insisting that "nobody has ever said that", prompting a swift response from Elias.
“Well they have said they don’t because they’ve stepped down and are not playing this weekend which is the greatest sign of saying no... honestly it’s just disgraceful,” Elias added.
Fellow panelist and Manly legend Geoff Toovey also weighed in to throw his support behind the club's rainbow jersey idea.
“I’m not a religious man but I do believe that hopefully there is a higher power up there somewhere and I hope whoever it is that they’re not a bigot,” Toovey said.
“That’s all I’m saying, that they’re accepting of everyone.”
Kent then sparked a storm on social media after suggesting that initiatives such as pride jerseys did not belong in the NRL and that the competition should remain “apolitical”.
Paul Kent says 'politics' has no place in rugby league
“We all want equality, we all want equality. At the same time we want equality, we want to celebrate diversity,” Kent said.
“I don’t want to say they’re mutually exclusive but there’s very little overlap between equality and diversity and yet the NRL, and this is why we’re in such a thick spot with this at the moment, the NRL has no answer for this, Robbo has got no answer for this, nobody has got an answer for this, society hasn’t got an answer for this.
“Rugby league, and this is my whole point, rugby league should be apolitical, we should not be sitting here every night trying to run a political agenda because the minute you run a political agenda down on our supporters, you divide the rugby league nation and you are going to continue to do that while ever this debate becomes a debate.
#NRL360 Paul Kent just can't help himself, League has always been politicial and it's just a cop out excuse to fob the issue off as lets leave politics out of the game, peoples rights aren't something to just move on from cause someone is uncomfortable with it.
— Xeno (@__Rawrrrrrrr) July 27, 2022
Looking forward to Paul Kent's condemnation of Anzac jerseys as "too political" as well. https://t.co/H6UwqjsYru
— weiner hugehog (@mattiecamp) July 27, 2022
The only person making it political is Paul Kent. It's a human issue. Its not political at all.
— Camo Sánchez (@CamMagicMan) July 27, 2022
— Ray (@Ballyurra) July 27, 2022
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