Sydney WorldPride 2023 is currently underway and there are numerous ways to celebrate, from attending the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade to belting “Beg For You” at the top of your lungs at a Charli XCX concert.
Or, you could go the way of the National Rugby League, and decide not to acknowledge Pride at all.
According to a recent poll by the Sydney Morning Herald, 82 percent of NRL club heads are against holding a league-wide Pride Round. The paper posed the question to all 34 NRL club chief execs and chairpersons, and 25 responded.
In addition, 57 percent said they were opposed to their clubs wearing Pride jerseys.
This survey was released shortly before Sydney hosts what WorldPride promises will be “the largest LGBTQIA+ Human Rights Conference ever to be held in the southern hemisphere” at the beginning of March.
You might think that expressing such reactionary views during a time of celebration would make the NRL feel a bit chastened, and that its clubs might want to do some damage control.
Unfortunately, those assumptions would be wrong.
For one, the league is wary of repeating an embarrassing moment from last summer, when seven members of the Manly Sea Eagles refused to take the pitch in Pride jerseys, and sat out that week’s match.
Thanks to that incident, the NRL was banned from marching in this year’s Mardi Gras parade. That didn’t stop some powerful figures in the league from doubling down on their stance against representing Pride on the pitch.
One anonymous club boss who responded to the survey asked rhetorically, “Given what occurred at Manly, why would you not think that would occur at the other 16 clubs given how many Polynesian players — many of whom are obviously religious — are in the NRL?”
The NRL’s message is the following: why would you expect us to do the right thing when capitulating is so much easier?
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made a similar statement following two Pride Night debacles across the league.
The anonymous club boss continued: “If the NRL was going to consider such a [Pride] round, then a round based on inclusivity would be better. You can’t have a Pride round and promote it as being inclusive if you exclude people’s views of which you do not agree.”
This might be the first time someone has ever argued that a Pride event can’t truly be inclusive, unless it also includes homophobia. There is no rugby injury in the world that can possibly do more damage to your brain than reading that sentence.
With those responses in mind, it’s safe to conclude that NRL probably won’t be invited to participate in Mardi Gras anytime soon.
No one at Sydney WorldPride is going to miss them.