The Warriors’ former Manly Sea Eagles star Addin Fonua-Blake didn’t want to criticise players from his old club for refusing to wear a pride jersey this weekend, while Shaun Johnson says he understands both points of view.
Fonua-Blake, now the backbone of the Warriors forward pack, was asked about the latest controversy involving the team from Sydney’s northern beaches at the team’s media session at Mt Smart Stadium.
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Seven players, Jason Saab, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and New Zealanders Josh Aloiai, Toafofoa Sipley and Christian Tuipulotu have withdrawn from the Sea Eagles’ game against the Roosters on Thursday night.
The have done so because they won’t wear a rainbow-themed jersey to celebrate diversity and inclusivity, on religious and cultural grounds.
Fonua-Blake, who played 97 games for the Sea Eagles before moving to the Warriors last season, is a religious person and when asked if he had any views on the Sea Eagles’ situation, he chose not to be critical of the players taking this stance.
“Not really, each to their own,” Fonua-Blake said.
“I know there are a lot of cultural beliefs and religion that goes into their decision not to wear the jersey, but I’ve got nothing but respect for the boys and I’ve got no bad comments on it.”
Johnson also chose not to criticise the players, but he also said he had respect for the LGBTQI community.
“I don’t have an opinion,” Johnson said.
“I just think each to their own. I’m OK with it if we’re asked to respect the pride community and we should also respect the Christian or religious community as well.
“So that’s where I’m at with it. I don’t have an opinion either way. It’s not for me to worry about.”
During press conferences around the NRL on Tuesday, players from all clubs were pressed about their thoughts on the issue.
Dragons duo Andrew McCullough and Jaydn Su’A said they’d have no problem wearing a pride jersey.
McCullough pointed out that the naming rights of their home ground, 4 Pines Park in Brookvale, is held by an alcohol company, in a subtle shot at the protestors.
“It wouldn’t bother me. I drink beer on the weekend so wearing a jersey like that won’t bother me,” McCullough told the Illawarra Mercury.
“You are going to be without seven players at this time of the year. In hindsight maybe they could have been asked beforehand.
“But it is a hard one, not being there it is hard to comment.”
Su’A said he would have no qualms wearing such a jersey for the Dragons and highlighted how the Sea Eagles will be impacted by the call.
“We don’t have that drama here, we don’t have a pride jersey but everyone has different perspectives and opinions,” Su’A said.
“I can’t really comment with what they are doing. It is probably a tough situation, they are around that 20 point mark as well.
“To miss seven quality players….you know it hurts.
“But at the end of the day it is their choice, their belief.
“I’m here to play footy, I’d wear the jersey if that is what the club needed me to do.”
Tom Burgess took to social media to suggest Souths should come up with their own pride jersey, while Parramatta Eels captain Clint Gutherson described the situation as “tough.”
“A lot of people just play the game and want to just play the game,” Gutherson said on Big Sports Breakfast.
“There’s always a lot of news out there that people have, it’s a hard one, it’s a delicate one.
“They’re in a tough situation but that’s what the situation is and they’ve got to resolve it.”
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