Fans have heaped praise on the Perth Wildcats after the NBL club showed off its stunning Pride Round makeover for RAC Stadium in Perth.
While the rest of the league debates the Cairns Taipans stance to “opt out” of wearing “Pride jerseys” which included a tiny logo of jersey manufacturer Champion with a rainbow outline, the Wildcats went whole hog into the inclusion round.
Watch every game live of the 2022/23 NBL Season on ESPN on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Before the side takes the court against the Wollongong Hawks on Friday evening, the Wildcats social media shared a spectacular view of the court specially decked out for the occasion.
FIBA social media lead Alistair Hogg commented: “This is how you do it”.
Broadcaster Neroli Meadows posted: “And THAT is how it’s done! #proud”.
The NBL has been in the spotlight over the issue after the Taipans released a statement on Wednesday after several of the team’s players decided not to wear the Pride logo.
“This initiative should be a celebration; however, our team has already been subjected to a barrage of abuse and harmful commentary that has led to individuals being targeted and shamed,” the statement read.
“This is a negative distraction to what should be a positive experience across the game, and now we feel as though our only choice as a team is to collectively opt out of this season’s uniforms.”
The letter was signed by the Taipans’ player group.
However, the club’s major sponsor CQUniversity released a statement saying it disagreed with the Taipan’s decision.
The NBL also released a statement that players would not be mandated to wear the logo.
But it has been a lightning rod for criticism.
Melbourne United star Isaac Humphries, who came out as the first openly gay player in a top-tier men’s basketball league last November, slammed the Taipans’ decision in a statement to ESPN and said the league had a problem.
“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?”
United coach Dan Vickerman said on Thursday the Taipans’ stance showed: “we need to continue further education”.
“Any time there’s change in our league, we’ve got to support it with education,” Vickerman said.
“(The Taipans’ decision) has brought a little bit of a voice to what this round is about. There’s going to be debate about it and people are going to talk about it … There’s always going to be two different views, and hopefully we can educate people enough to get on the same page.”
Speaking after South East Melbourne’s win over the Taipans on Wednesday, Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell said: “We’ve had this thing with Isaac this year, and him coming out, and talking about the issues that he’s gone through, and some of the depths of despair he’s gone through.
“If that doesn’t hurt everyone in our league, to a degree, it’s like, man, I wanna pick a brother up. I don’t have a relationship with Isaac, but I … shook his hand and said I’m proud of him, when we played Melbourne. And I hate Melbourne.”
But speaking on Sky News on Thursday, former NBA star Andrew Bogut said he knew more than just a few players didn’t want to wear the logo.
“I’m for freedom of choice on it, so if someone wants to support it then by all means, but this whole thing that it was just two or three players – I know for a fact there were more than that in the league that were kind of like ‘oh, that is kind of against my beliefs’,” Bogut said.
“They were too scared to not go ahead with it, but that is not just the Cairns Taipans, I know that for a fact.”