Giants player Haneen Zreika has sparked a heated discussion after it was revealed she would sit out pride round on religious grounds.
Greater Western Sydney player and practising Muslim Haneen Zreika will not play this weekend after deciding not to wear the team’s pride jumper on religious grounds.
Zreika, who was the first Islamic player to play in the AFL Women’s competition after making her debut in 2019, has grappled with the decision in recent weeks before ultimately withdrawing from Friday’s clash against the Western Bulldogs.
It is understood that she addressed her teammates earlier this week regarding her decision in what was an emotional and educational session for all players, which includes a number of LGBTQIA+ community members.
It was not a decision that was reached lightly by the 22-year-old, who has been working with the club and the AFL in the lead-up to the game.
She played in the 2021 pride round, but the Giants did not wear a pride jumper. Zreika – who supports her teammates and their beliefs – strives to be a leader within the Muslim community and it is understood that wearing the jumper in Friday’s game could compromise her standing within her community.
She is likely to attend the game at Henson Park but has been called out by some of her social media followers.
“So you’re progressive enough to be a woman playing in a male-dominated sport and fight for the Invasion Day cause, but you’re so against LGBTQ+ rights that you can’t even stand wearing a rainbow guernsey for 90 minutes? Pick a side,” one commented.
“Absolute f***ing hypocrite,” another wrote. “You have no right to preach about having a support system when you refuse to be one for your teammates and players who just happen to be part of the LGBT community. It is a privilege to be awarded a spot in the AFLW and one that you should not take for granted, especially when you choose to deliberately discriminate against your own teammates. Absolutely NOBODY in the AFLW has discriminated against you because of your religion, yet you have the audacity to basically tell your teammates you are better than them simply because of who they are? Sorry mate, take a long hard look at yourself. There is a difference between having beliefs and using them to deliberately hurt others.”
But others supported her move. “Hey haneen I came to thank you for being a public figure that stands for our Islamic values,” one wrote. “I converted to Islam 15 years ago and have a daughter that plays football. I raise her to respect and value each person regardless of their beliefs but to also stay firm on hers … thank you for setting an example for all of us.”
Another added: “Good on you for sticking by your beliefs, whatever that they may be and you certainly shouldn’t be copping any hate for it. Everyone should just respect her decision and move on.”
Others compared Zreika to former Wallabies player Israel Folau, who was sacked by Rugby Australia for social media posts referencing homosexuals.
It has been an uncharted situation for the Giants, which remains firmly committed to its support of AFLW Pride Round, its specially designed jumper and what it stands for.
“It’s so important and such a big step for our club and our supporters,” Zreika’s teammate Rebecca Privitelli said last week when the jumper was launched.
“I know our girls are really excited to pull on the jumper, it’s a big part of all our lives and I hope our fans feel the same way.
“There’s a lot of young boys and girls out there that need role models to look up to and I think the AFLW are doing an incredible thing to give young women and men that opportunity.”
The AFL has declined to make a comment on Zreika’s decision to miss Friday night’s game.
Last week West Coast was criticised for being the only AFLW team not to wear a Pride jumper.
West Coast general manager of community and game development Richard O’Connell said the club was conscious of not rushing the process for designing a pride jumper and was focusing this season on releasing its AFLW Indigenous jumper.
The club’s AFLW coach Michael Prior then came under fire for refusing to comment on the issue, saying: “I talk about footy, not what we’re wearing. I think we’ve done the pride stuff to death, to be honest.”
He later apologised to anyone “who was offended by the report”.