Sports
The NHL & NHLPA Are Partnering With ‘You Can Play’ To Fight Homophobia
April 11, 2013
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The National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association are teaming up with the You Can Play Project to fight homophobia in sports and support gay players.

Today's announcement, as The New York Times put it, represents "the most comprehensive measure by a major men's league in support of gay rights."

Under the new partnership, the NHL will train and counsel its players on gay issues, and take part in producing and broadcasting public service announcements.

"Our motto is Hockey Is For Everyone, and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement.

"We are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players' Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands."

You Can Play was founded by Patrick Burke, brother of Brendan and son of Brian Burke, former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Patrick founded the organization in honour of Brendan, who had come out publicly and later died in a car accident in February 2010.

Here's Brian in the red chair talking about the possibility of an openly gay player in the NHL:

In the past, You Can Play has worked with specific NHL teams and the players' union to create videos like the one below featuring Zdeno Chara and Jason Pominville.

But this is the first time a formal relationship has been created between a professional league and the You Can Play Project.

"The NHL sets the standard for professional sports when it comes to LGBT outreach and we are incredibly grateful for their help and support," Patrick Burke said in a statement.

"We will work with League and NHLPA officials, teams and players to ensure that we create a more inclusive hockey community at all levels."

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said: "The players believe our partnership with the NHL and You Can Play will foster an inclusive hockey environment from the grassroots level to the professional ranks."

No gay male athlete on a major pro sports team has come out. But the New York Times reports there is "heightened speculation" that it may happen soon.

Last week, NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo, who's become an unofficial spokesperson for the acceptance of gay players, told the Baltimore Sun that as many as four players might come out at the same time.

"I'm not going to name numbers, several gay players in more sports than just football [may come out], and what we're trying to facilitate is to get them together and do what they want to do, do what is right for them," he said.

"It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy," he continued. "It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out."

Here's Mark Tewksbury in the red chair more than 10 years after he came out, talking about his belief that sport is still "behind the rest of society".

Related:

AHL Hockey Team The Peoria Rivermen Take The 'You Can Play' Pledge To Help End Homophobia In Sports

Being Gay In The NFL: The Secrets, The Culture, The Fear Of Coming Out & The Changing Attitudes

Changing The Game: UFC Fighter And Two NFLers Speak Out In Support Of Marriage Equality

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