The first openly gay Australian basketball player has slammed NBL side Cairns Taipans after the playing group elected to unanimously shun the inaugural Pride Round jersey on the weekend.
Melbourne United centre Isaac Humphries came out as gay earlier this season and suggested the Taipans decision to shield players who refused to wear the jersey lacked courage.
Members of the Taipans playing roster had expressed concern over wearing the jersey for religious reason, but were not named.
Isaac Humphries attempts to get past Brisbane Bullets player Gorjak Gak. He is the NBL’s first openly gay player
Taipans players elected not to wear the Pride jersey, which included a small rainbow logo of sponsor Champion
Instead, the Taipans players elected to refuse to wear the jersey as a group to remain unified and not have teammates singled out.
Humphries was disappointed by their stance and issued a statement in response.
‘My teammates are like family. Like family, I will always come from a place of love and acceptance,’ Humphries said.
‘So, when it comes to inclusion, I will always stand up and speak out when needed for my sport, for my community, and I’m disappointed for my LGBTQ+ family of athletes and coaches who live silently in the closet.
‘If we are going to move forward with true equality, equity and inclusion in sport for LGBTQ+ athletes, we have to start by getting honest. We have to acknowledge there is a problem.
‘The obligation is on all of us, no matter where in the sport power matrix we live. In the meantime, I will continue to encourage us all to come together, respect each other, lift each other up, and I will use my platform to give voice to the voiceless.
‘Each of us needs to ask ourselves: what kind of courage did we display when our leadership moment arrived?’
Cairns’ long-time major NBL sponsor also slammed the club’s decision not to wear the jerseys.
CQUniversity’s vice-chancellor and president Nick Klomp has confirmed he was not consulted before the team’s late decision not to wear the themed uniform, featuring a small rainbow-coloured logo, in Wednesday’s loss to South East Melbourne Phoenix.
Taipans coach Adam Forde insisted the club supported the pride round concept but argued they were protecting an unnamed player or players in the team who had been abused and ‘vilified’ after reports of their hesitation to wear the uniform on religious grounds surfaced.
The Champion’s Pride Progress flag is seen ahead of NBL inaugural Pride Round during the round 17 NBL match between South East Melbourne Phoenix and Cairns Taipans
Their move has been met with harsh criticism in some circles with Swinburne University sports innovation expert Ryan Storr labelling it a ‘kick in the face’ and ‘one of the worst attempts at PR and comms I have seen related to LGBTIQ+ inclusion’.
Klomp joined the critics on Friday, confirming he only learnt of the decision when a club statement was released shortly before the game.
‘As major sponsor of the Cairns Taipans, CQUniversity does not agree with the Taipans’ decision not to wear the pride jersey,’ he said.
‘I spoke briefly to Taipans management on Wednesday night, with a view to engaging in more in-depth discussions with the club in the coming days.’
While the players did not wear the Pride jersey, coach Adam Forde did wear the NBL’s Pride Round logo on his shirt during the match and for media commitments
The university has sponsored the club – Cairns’ only national sporting team – since 2012 and been naming-rights sponsor since 2014.
‘At CQUniversity, inclusiveness is one of our core values,’ Klomp said.
‘We strive every day to ensure our campuses and online environments are safe spaces for all people, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or religious beliefs.
‘I was therefore delighted to see the NBL join the ranks of other sporting codes this week in hosting an inaugural pride round, to celebrate the contributions of LGBTQIA+ people to the game of basketball and to promote inclusiveness in the sport.’
Mitch Creek – who played for the Cairns Taipans opposition South East Melbourne Phoenix – wore rainbow shoes to show his support for Pride Round
The NBL said the round was designed to ‘promote, celebrate and give thanks to the LGBTQ community, while showcasing basketball as a sport striving to provide a safe, healthy and accessible environment for all’.
Teams were given access to awareness training and an option to wear a themed jersey during the round.
Forde attempted to explain the club’s intentions after Wednesday’s defeat before shutting down further questions, including those directed at player Ben Ayre.
‘We support the NBL’s initiative and the message of what this round represents; individuality, unity and love, right?’ Forde said.
‘And we weren’t unfortunately recipients of it, for some unknown reason.’