Taipans defy NBL pride jersey backlash

Cairns NBL coach Adam Forde has defended his players' decision not to wear a one-off jersey celebrating the league's inaugural pride round, arguing it was made to protect them and not oppose the concept.

The Taipans confirmed shortly before Wednesday's away game to South East Melbourne Phoenix they would not wear the jersey, featuring a small rainbow logo on an otherwise regular playing strip.

The decision prompted heavy public criticism and came after reports earlier in the week that multiple Taipans players were concerned about wearing a rainbow logo on their jerseys due to their religious beliefs.

Wednesday's club statement said those reports had led to "abuse and harmful commentary", with the players deciding none of them would wear the special kit as a "protection of our brothers that are being set up to be vilified and no longer feel as though they have a safe space in our sport".

Second-placed Cairns lost to the Phoenix and Forde was asked post-game to explain the decision.

"We support the NBL's initiative and the message of what this round represents; individuality, unity and love, right?," he said.

"And we weren't unfortunately recipients of it, for some unknown reason.

"We're doing this because we got around our brothers and we want to protect each other.

"Rather than feel like we're getting singled out for any particular reason, this is us and I'm proud of them for it."

The drama has unfolded just two months after Melbourne United centre Isaac Humphries became the first openly gay active player in NBL history.

It comes after a similar situation unfolded in the NRL, when Manly faced resistance from members of their playing group after introducing an inclusion jersey without player consultation.

"We've had this thing with Isaac coming out and talking about the issues he's gone through and some of the depths of despair he went through," Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell said.

"If that doesn't hurt everyone in our league to a degree ... it's like, 'Man I want to pick a brother up'.

"To know there's people out there feeling that way, we've got to open our arms up to them, to make sure they know we're a safe place, an ally and we're friends and that your sexual orientation or how you identify doesn't matter to us."

Mitchell said he and his players did not realise the Taipans were not wearing the pride jerseys.

And while Phoenix star man Mitchell Creek wore rainbow-coloured shoes and was one of the drivers of the pride round concept, coach Mitchell remained measured in his assessment of Cairns' call.

"(Just) because you see things differently you don't need persecution," he said.

"They know they'll be up for a little bit of finger pointing, already have been.

"Pointing the finger doesn't help, ostracising doesn't help. It's about conversation and educating yourself.

"This round opens dialogue and I think we leave Cairns alone ... hopefully over time whoever feels like they can't celebrate this round can be educated enough to realise we're just holding out a hand to our brothers and sisters and looking after our community."