Cairns Taipans coach Adam Forde has said he is proud of his side after they chose not to wear the Champion Pride Round uniform during their clash with South East Melbourne Phoenix on Wednesday.
Most important points:
- Cairns Taipans coach Adam Forde has defended his players’ decision not to wear a rainbow logo for Pride Round
- The NBL club said its players had been subjected to “a barrage of abuse and damaging commentary” prior to the game.
- League owner Larry Kestelman supported the Taipans and said the NBL was not requiring players to wear the Pride jersey
Following the Taipans’ defeat in Melbourne on Wednesday night, Forde said the team chose not to wear the rainbow logo jersey after being subjected to “targeted attacks”.
Coach Forde—wearing a rainbow badge at court—intervened during the post-game press conference in defense of his players.
“I don’t want to hijack…but we do support it [pride round] … what we are trying to avoid is these targeted attacks,” he said.
“We’re doing this because we’ve gone around our brothers and we want to protect each other and instead of feeling like we’re being singled out for a particular reason… And I’m proud of that,” added Forde .
For the NBL’s first-ever pride round, any team could choose to wear their regular jerseys, but with a small logo on the chest with rainbow colors.
In a statement released shortly before Wednesday’s game, the club said its players had been “subjected to a barrage of abuse and harmful commentary ahead of the Pride Round match which has led to individuals being targeted and were ashamed.”
“This is a negative distraction from what should be a positive experience during the game, and now we feel our only choice as a team is to collectively forego this season’s kits,” the statement said.
“This is not a reflection of our individual views or personal views, but a protection of our brothers who are being set up to be slandered and no longer feel they have a safe place in our sport.”
Phoenix player Allan Williams said he did not notice the absence of the logo on his opponents during the game.
“I couldn’t see it, whatever Cairns decides to do, that’s on Cairns,” he said.
He also noted the “strength” it takes to support your teammates, especially in a difficult and potentially controversial decision.
Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell was also sympathetic to the backlash the Taipans received.
“I know they want to point the finger a little bit, they already have. I’m sure the reason none of them wore it was we don’t want to expose anyone,” Mitchell said.
“What this round does is it opens up a dialogue…I think we just leave Cairns alone; just let them do their thing,” he said.
Former ESPN reporter James McKern wrote on Twitter, “See that little donkey logo on his chest?! That’s what the Taipans refused to wear for the Pride Round. You don’t even see it on the air. Absolute joke from the organization”.
NBL league owner Larry Kestelman also issued a statement in support of the Taipans players.
“We have not required our players to wear the Pride jersey and if a player or team chooses not to wear the jersey, we will respect that decision,” the statement said.
“[The NBL] will continue to create a place where all people feel safe and can be themselves, without judgment.”
Retired Australian basketball player AJ Ogilvy joined the conversation: “To everyone who said ‘the NBL doesn’t need a pride round’ – here’s why they do.”
Melbourne United’s Issac Humphries became the league’s first active openly gay player last November, coming out in an emotional video revealing the mental health struggles of dealing with his sexuality.
Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell added, “If that doesn’t hurt everyone in our league to some degree … to know that there are people out there who feel that way. We need to open our arms to them.”
Phoenix player Mitch Creek was an advocate for the NBL’s inaugural pride round, wearing brightly colored shoes during the game to show his support.
He told commentators, “It’s an immense opportunity, it’s one where you know we unfortunately have to have this conversation.”
“Love is love, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, I’m just trying to show my support,” Creek said.
The NBL isn’t the first sporting code to face backlash during a pride round, with the Manly Sea-Eagles having to apologize for the way they applied rainbow colors to the club’s jersey.
Seven players had their NRL match last boycotted due to their team’s decision to wear a gay pride jersey due to their religious and personal beliefs.
The Brisbane Bullets play the New Zealand Breakers on Thursday evening, with both sides wearing the pride jersey.
The NBL understands that all other clubs and players will also participate for the rest of the pride round.