Home Youth jerseys Shaneel Lal: Manly players pick and choose when it suits them to be Christian-type

Shaneel Lal: Manly players pick and choose when it suits them to be Christian-type


A Manly Sea Eagles player wears a pride shirt during the NRL Round 20 game against the Sydney Roosters. Photo/Getty Images


Three Manly Sea Eagle players who refused to wear the Pride shirt had no qualms about supporting their colleague after he stabbed a young Mormon church leader.

Manase Fainu was found guilty of one count of injuring a person with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after stabbing a man following a youth dance outside the Church of Jesus- Christ of Latter Day Saints in Sydney in 2019.

Just a week earlier, teammates Josh Schuster, Josh Aloiai and Haumole Olakau’atu had refused to play a game in Pride jerseys for moral, religious and cultural reasons. I wonder if Fainu also stabbed the youth leader outside the church for moral and religious reasons?

Manly Sea Eagle players have redefined morality. They support a man who stabbed an innocent church youth leader but condemned gay people for their mere existence. Was it ever about religion? No. Anyone who still believes that holding Manly players accountable is an attack on religion is a sucker for Christian bigotry. It has always been about protecting the power of Manly players to condemn gay people.

Josh Schuster of the Manly Sea Eagles.  Photo/Getty Images
Josh Schuster of the Manly Sea Eagles. Photo/Getty Images

The day after Fainu was found guilty, Aloiai, a devout Christian, posted a photo on Instagram of the couple together and captioned it with a heart of love. On Sunday, Fainu posted an Instagram story showing a barbecue at his house. He captioned it “#LastSupper” and said “thank you too” to Aloiai, who supported him throughout the trial. It was indeed Fainu’s last supper with his disciple Aloiai before going to jail on Monday to await sentencing.

Sea Eagles' Josh Aloiai.  Photo/Getty Images
Sea Eagles’ Josh Aloiai. Photo/Getty Images

During Sunday’s game against the Titans, Schuster scrawled the initials MF on his wrist.

Manly lost. Schuster posted a photo of himself with the initials and captioned it “see you soon my toko”, tagging Fainu. Unfortunately for Fainu, neither his uso nor his toko will be there in prison for supper.

After scoring a try, Olakau’atu displayed the number 61, followed by a handcuff imitation. The number 61 refers to the Guildford area code in western Sydney, where they grew up. Pulling the area codes is ironic, considering Fainu was convicted amid a gang rivalry stemming from the area codes.

Do they think they are doing something radical and revolutionary by doing public stunts in support of a convicted felon? Aren’t they embarrassed – because I feel secondary embarrassment? Olakau’atu, Schuster and Aloiai are not revolutionary.

They make fun of themselves.

When will we stop excusing bigotry as religious freedom? If these actors claim to act in coherence with Christianity, does supporting a man who stabbed an innocent person also fall under freedom of religion? Or is this a sign that these actors are not exercising religious freedom but instead using the Bible selectively to condemn the people they hate?

They choose and choose when it suits them to be Christians. Obviously, the only time they claim to care about religion is when they cause harm to marginalized people. I would say wearing a jersey with thin rainbow stripes is more moral than supporting an attacker. The three manly ones abandoned their religion in the blink of an eye to support their companion, who stabbed an innocent man.

Haumole Olakau'atu of Sea Eagles. Photo/Getty Images
Haumole Olakau’atu of Sea Eagles. Photo/Getty Images

Religious freedom is not absolute. Freedom of religion protects religious people from persecution. This does not give them the freedom to persecute others. When you take off the facade of religious freedom, you find a bunch of Christian hypocrites. When the practice of religion seeks to harm vulnerable people, a line must be drawn.

• Shaneel Shavneel Lal (they/them) was instrumental in the bill to ban conversion therapy in New Zealand. They are a law and psychology student, model and influencer.