'It's dangerous': NRL players called out over 'homophobic' post

Chris Young
·3-min read
Wests Tigers players Michael Chee-Kam and Shawn Blore have been called upon to make an apology to the rainbow community after sharing an edited image of a magazine cover featuring LGBTIQIA dance troupe House of Iman. Pictures: Getty Images/Instagram
Wests Tigers players Michael Chee-Kam and Shawn Blore have been called upon to make an apology to the rainbow community after sharing an edited image of a magazine cover featuring LGBTIQIA dance troupe House of Iman. Pictures: Getty Images/Instagram

A high-profile LGBTIQA activist has called for Wests Tigers player to apologise after seemingly making fun of the community in a post on social media.

An Instagram story uploaded by Wests Tigers' Shawn Blore attracted criticism from Jaycee Tanuvasa, the leader of New Zealand-based dance troupe House of Iman, who labelled the post 'trans and homophobic'.

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The post took a magazine cover from the NZ Herald's 'Viva' magazine from earlier this year and replaced the face of dancer Anthony Sua with that of Wests Tigers veteran Michael Chee-Kam, ostensibly to celebrate his birthday.

The modified image also carried a row of laughing emojis.

However Tanuvasa felt differently, calling out the post on Twitter and sharing screenshots of it before opening up more about it in an interview with the NZ Herald.

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In calling for an apology for the post, Tanuvasa said she didn't want to 'ridicule' the players, but said the post was 'not ok' considering the troupe is comprised of LGBTIQA members.

“I’m not trying to ridicule these boys’ careers, I just want some ownership of their behaviour and for them to understand that this is not okay,” she said.

“People are already making fun of us, already bully us for who we are.

“When you see Pacific Island leaders, male leaders, perpetuate that, what that does is validate those violent behaviours towards us and encourages it even more. Any mockery of our authentic lives will continue to add to the violence of us in our daily lives.”

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The House of Iman are prominent exponents of voguing, a style of dance inspired by posing in high fashion and historical art which uses exaggerated poses as a storytelling method.

Tanuvasa said sports stars needed to set an example, and part of that meant not picking on those who are different from them.

“If they are laughing at us, then a lot of young people will say, ‘these lives are not worthy of anything else other than laughter and ridicule’, and it has been true," she said.

“Just really making that clear for the community, so that the wider community that isn’t rainbow understands what is unacceptable behaviour and why.”

Tanuvasa has called for the NRL to do more to educate players and recognise the LGBTIQA community - however the league's existing policies have remained the same since 2018.

She also told the NZ Herald that Wests Tigers have not yet been in contact with her.

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