Every sensitive new age man knows that when working with women you may comment on their professional performance, but never on their choice of clothing.
So West Coast AFLW coach Michael Prior must have felt he was on solid ground when he told journalists that he wanted to talk about football rather than the players’ uniforms.
Turns out he should have talked about the girls’ clothing after all.
Journalists had demanded to know on Friday why his players were the only ones not wearing an LGBTQIA+-friendly guernsey to celebrate the league’s Pride Round.
All the other teams had re-imagined their traditional jumpers as Mardi Gras collector’s items; why hadn’t his?
It wasn’t enough that the Eagles promoted lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer lifestyles with their training singlets and their specially made rainbow socks. Where was the sparkly game-day jumper?
Now you need to know that the Eagles currently sit twelfth on the ladder, having not won a game this season. Last year they finished third last. In 2020 they collected the wooden spoon.
So, you’ll excuse the coach – a former Essendon hardman known for his aggression and win-at-all-costs mentality – if his immediate concern is not the team’s apparel.
Who cares that your jumper looks absolutely fabulous when you’re having your pants pulled down every week?
‘I’ve got a simple view,’ Prior told journalists. ‘That’s not my role. I talk about footy, not what we’re wearing.’
Now that would be fair enough, except that a rainbow jumper is not ‘what we’re wearing’; it’s a worldview the AFL is promoting. And you are dismissive of that at your peril.
Then, going where even non-binary angels fear to tread, Prior added: ‘I think we’ve done the pride stuff to death to be honest. I want to talk about the footy, not the jumper.’
Someone should have told Prior that the one thing you never do when your betters are promoting diversity is offer a divergent opinion. Cue outrage!
Retired AFLW star Meg Hutchins, who now works at Hawthorn and calls herself ‘an equality ambassador’, described Prior as ‘an imbecile’.
AAP journalist Michael Ramsey said Prior’s comments were ‘incredibly disappointing’ while his colleague Oliver Caffrey tweeted: ‘Even if you deep down don’t care, you’ve got to publicly get behind something your players do deeply care about. It’s called being a leader.’
Maybe Prior wished his footballers cared more deeply about football. It’s called being a football coach.
By Saturday the football coach had realised he might not have a job unless his commitment to players wearing a pride jumper was at least as strong, if not stronger, than his commitment to players winning a premiership.
He issued a statement apologising for his comments and assuring people he was ‘fully supportive of Pride Round and the LGBTQIA+ community’.
Well, thank God for that! No one should be allowed to take to a football field without first testing negative for Covid and positive for LGBTQIA+ support.
Prior went on to patiently explain that the girls would be ‘wearing a unique training singlet’ and ‘rainbow socks’ at the weekend.
And then he updated Eagles fans, not on their game plan, but on their sewing plan.
‘The design, manufacture and production of a playing guernsey is a process we take seriously, and we are collaborating with our playing group through this process before we respectfully release, celebrate and educate about our new jumper,’ he said.
It’s a relief to know the coach takes fashion design seriously, though what it means to ‘respectfully release’ an item of clothing is anyone’s guess.
As for educating people about the new jumper, one presumes that it has a large hole for the head and two smaller holes for the arms. No wonder the Eagle’s players can’t seem to find the goals!
With all of that mercifully out of the way, Prior was free to focus his virtue signalling forwards, his gay-friendly midfielders, and his LGBTQIA+ defenders on football.
On Sunday they were smashed by the Adelaide Crows, 1.3 (9) to 6.6 (42).
At this rate, the coach might soon prefer to talk about fashion than football.
You can follow James on Twitter. You can order his new book Notes from Woketopia here.
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