SBD/March 5, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Players Band Together For Campaign Seeking To End Homophobia In Sports

Hockey is "joining the drive to end homophobia in sports with a public-service message" featuring eight NHL players, including Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist, Ducks RW Corey Perry and Senators RW Daniel Alfredsson, according to Klein & Hackel of the N.Y. TIMES. You Can Play, the campaign being promoted by the players, is "another in a series of efforts by hockey’s Burke family to open doors for gay athletes to participate in sports." Flyers scout and project founder Patrick Burke said it is intended to “make locker rooms safe for all athletes, rather than places of fear, slurs and bullying.” The message was "shown for the first time during the first intermission of NBC’s Sunday afternoon telecast of the Bruins-Rangers game." Burke said that 35 NHL players "have committed to take part in the project." The You Can Play website went live yesterday. 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 President & GM Brian Burke, "marched in Toronto’s gay pride parade with Brendan, and again after Brendan died" in a '10 car accident. Patrick Burke said, "It is important for straight athletes at all levels to step up and let gay athletes know they will be accepted, and to let other straight athletes know that homophobic language and attitude is never appropriate." Burke noted that You Can Play’s advisory panel has reps from the NFL, the NBA, MLS and women’s sports. The project "plans to produce a playbook for coaches, players, members of the news media and administrators at all age levels to create a nonthreatening environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/4).

SUPPORTING THE CAUSE: Brian Burke "helped line up 35 NHL players to participate in the campaign." He said, "Virtually every player that was approached accepted immediately" (USA TODAY, 3/5). Patrick Burke added, "The response we've received from the athletes has been a little overwhelming, frankly" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/4). In DC, Dan Steinberg noted the project's founders "have told participating athletes that they aren't asking for partisan arguments or political stands," and the group "does not have a formal position on gay marriage or any other non-athletic issue." Patrick Burke: "We've asked them to say they would support an openly gay teammate. That's all we've asked them to say, and that's all we'll ever ask them to say" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/4).
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