Earlier this month, Australian professional rugby player and apparent theologian Israel Folau said that God’s plan for gay people was “HELL … unless they repent.” But the latest news on the rugby front is that New Zealand’s national rugby union team the All Blacks and its female-counterpart the Black Ferns are publicly opposing discrimination with stylish new rainbow jerseys that appear black but reveal colors of the rainbow whenever they’re tugged on.
The teams unveiled these ‘secret’ rainbow jerseys in a recent video:
The video shows the teams’ rugby players arriving in a bus, suited up in the locker room and then coming onto the field to applause and fireworks. The narrator says:
They knock down every barrier. They overwhelm every foe, no matter how powerful. Through strength, through teamwork, through diversity. They fight as one, but that one is made from everyone. Because the next battle is different. The next enemy is truly formidable and deeply devious. It is discrimination, an enemy that cannot be fought alone. It must be defeated together. It will take more than 15. It will take thousands. Millions. Diversity is strength. Join our team.
The rugby players then reveal their rainbow jerseys while the fans and viewers rise in solidarity.
We’d admittedly love to get our hands on one of these rainbow jerseys. (Not that we want an AIG logo on our chests, especially since they’re the American multinational finance and insurance company behind the U.S. economic collapse of 2008.) But the ribbed, form-fitting shirt looks amazing, and its secret rainbow fabric looks even more so. We’d probably stretch it out quickly by showing all our friends the rainbow.
These rainbow jerseys are just part of several recent overtures against athletic homophobia.
This London rugby player told Israel Folau to kiss off
Simon Dunn, a rugby player with the London Kings Cross Steelers (who is also a retired bobsledder and who likes taking thirst pics) recently posted a shot of him kissing his partner, who also plays on the team, after a victory.
Victory kiss. pic.twitter.com/REvhoUN2bX
— Simon Dunn (@BySimonDunn) April 22, 2018
Unfortunately the sporting world is still a place where kissing my partner after our team’s victory is still seen as an act of defiance or rebellion. It’s an environment where someone’s homophobic comments can be defended as ‘just his opinion’ and that truly is worrying. I’ve devoted my life to sport, and as an out and proud athlete I’ll continue to do what is natural for me, and hopefully break down stereotypes in the process.
But here’s the thing …
The Australian Rugby Union’s Inclusion policy already has a policy clearly forbidding homophobia like Folau’s. It states, “There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game. Our actions and words both on the field and off the field must reflect this.”
In an April 16 column Folau wrote explaining his homophobic comment — entitled “I’m a Sinner Too” (ugh) — he said he met with the heads of Australian Rugby and offered to walk away from his contract if they thought he’d hurt the game or the Union.
Instead, the Union publicly said, “In his own words, Israel said that he did not intend to upset people intentionally or bring hurt to the game. We accept Israel’s position. Rugby Australia will use this experience as an opportunity to remind all employees of their obligation to use social media in a respectful way.”
While Bill Pulver, the CEO of Rugby Australia, publicly voiced support for same-sex marriage during Australia’s recent battle for marriage equality, one now wonders what else the Union, individual teams and their managers are actually willing to do to fight homophobia both on and off the field.
Because ‘secret’ rainbow jerseys aren’t gonna cut it.