NHL, NHLPA Partner With You Can Play To Fight Homophobia; Will Other Leagues Follow?
PAVING THE WAY: In L.A., Helene Elliott writes the partnership is "a big deal and should be recognized as that." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said, "In talking to the guys and all the rest of it, I think the basic feeling was this is the right thing to do, so we oughta go do it. And that's the motivation. You do it because it's the right thing to do." Bettman "accepts that the league might face a backlash for its stance." He said, "There's nothing that anybody can do that will get unanimous support in this day and age. You have to be comfortable that you're doing what you believe is the right thing. We as a family -- the NHL, the Players' Assn., the players, team personnel and our fans -- overwhelmingly believe we're doing the right thing" (L.A. TIMES, 4/12). Burke said, "What we're doing is setting the blueprint now. Other leagues are talking to different groups, including us, and trying to figure out the way that they want to go" (CP, 4/11). The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur notes You Can Play already had a "significant presence in the NHL, with over 60 players in its PSAs. But now it is "part of the playbook and that's progress." The NHL is "far ahead of the curve on LGBT issues now, miles ahead of other sports leagues and this is the formal proof." Arthur: "It feels radical, but it won't in five years. It might not in two. Society is moving and sports will move with it, and the NHL is far ahead of the field" (NATIONAL POST, 4/12).
BUILDING A COMFORT LEVEL: In N.Y., Klein & Battista note with "growing expectations in recent weeks that a gay male athlete in one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States will soon come out publicly for the first time, the leagues have begun exploring ways to accommodate and respond to such a landmark announcement." The NHL announced what "appeared to be the most comprehensive measure by a major men's league in support of gay athletes," while the NFL is "working with gay advocacy groups to smooth the way for acceptance." Burke said, "We have players from around the world, and a lot of those players are from countries that are seen as more progressive on LGBT issues. So I don't think it's unreasonable or strange to think that the NHL and NHLPA are driving this, in part because our players tend to be more comfortable with this issue" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/12). But in Jacksonville, Justin Barney wrote under the header, "Don't Look For NFL Players To Come Out Anytime Soon." There is "still so much of a stigma about the first openly gay NFL player that I'm not too confident it's going to happen in the time frame that we've heard in the past few weeks." Barney: "Why the holdup? The same reason that we haven't seen a player come out until after their playing days were done. Fear. Negative reaction. Backlash" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 4/11).