A new campaign called You Can Play hopes to end homophobia in sport and “make locker rooms safe for all athletes, rather than places of fear, slurs and bullying,” says founder of the project Patrick Burke of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The You Can Play campaign, as profiled by the New York Times prior to the campaign’s Sunday launch, features 35 NHL players, including starters such as Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, and Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators.
However, the campaign has a personal element for Burke. Says the New York Times:
Burke’s younger brother, Brendan, acknowledged he was gay while serving as the manager of the Miami (Ohio) University hockey team. Their father, Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, marched in Toronto’s gay pride parade with Brendan, and again after Brendan died in a 2010 car accident.
“The hockey community rallied behind Brendan because he loved the game,” Patrick Burke said. “The N.H.L. players stepping forward to support You Can Play know that creating a homophobia-free environment will make their teams, and the sport, better.”
Burke tells the New York Times that the project, while a combined effort between LGBT groups and straight advocates, is mainly aimed at encouraging straight athletes to become more vocal advocates and let their existing gay teammates and friends know they will be accepted. Burke says “It is important for straight athletes at all levels to step up and let gay athletes know they will be accepted,” and adds, “and to let other straight athletes know that homophobic language and attitude is never appropriate.”
He goes on to note: “We call it casual homophobia. It’s very rare in the NHL where you have someone who is actually homophobic or bullying someone, but you have guys using homophobic slurs and slang, not trying to mean it in that way. But in general, our players are very supportive.”.
Watch the PSA below:
Last year, the Rangers’ Sean Avery lobbied New York State legislators to pass a marriage equality bill. You can see Avery’s PSA here.
Image taken from YouTube video under fair use.