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AHL Hockey Team The Peoria Rivermen Take The ‘You Can Play’ Pledge To Help End Homophobia In Sports
January 10, 2013
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If you can cheer, you can cheer. If you can coach, you can coach. If you can play, you can play.

Those are the last lines of the 'You Can Play' pledge. It's a statement of intent for players and coaches in professional sports: we will not allow homophobia in the locker room, on the ice, or anywhere else in the arena or on the field.

Back in November, the Toronto Marlies took the pledge, and now a second team in the American Hockey League has signed on: the Peoria Rivermen, the AHL affiliate of the NHL's St. Louis Blues.

Twelve players and Coach Dave Allison appear in the video above to affirm their support for the initiative.

"We practice, train, play and bleed together as a family - something a person's sexual orientation has no effect on," Rivermen goaltender Mike McKenna said. "Hockey is generally known as a 'macho' sport , but I think it is very important for people to understand that the bulk of our players are also compassionate people that believe in the virtues of equality and respect."

You Can Play was created by Patrick Burke (son of former Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke), Brian Kitts, and Glenn Witman of GForce Sports, following the death of Brendan Burke, Patrick's brother.

Brendan came out in 2009, sparking an international discussion about homophobia in hockey specifically, and sports more generally. He died in a car crash on February 5, 2010.

Following Brendan's death, Patrick founded You Can Play as a tribute to his brother.

The main goal of the initiative is to rid professional sports of "casual homophobia" in the locker room, and ensure "equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation." And Patrick believes the participation of the Rivermen is an important step toward that goal.

"This type of statement by the Rivermen is invaluable, and we are truly grateful for their participation," Burke said. "Now gay hockey players, coaches, and fans know that there is another American Hockey League organization that is fully committed to giving them a fair opportunity to be a part of the Rivermen community."

"It shows tremendous leadership on the part of the Blues and Rivermen management, coaches, and players to work to support an often ignored community in the sports world."


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