The move made yesterday by the NHL, NHLPA and You Can Play Project is ground breaking in professional sports. For those that don’t know, the You Can Play Project has been around for little over a year now and promotes support and education of LGBT issues in sports. The project’s message is simple; If you can play, you can play.
Personally I’ve been a fan and a supporter of the cause since I first heard about it on Twitter about a year ago. To me it doesn’t matter what anyone’s orientation or sexual preference is. As far as I’m concerned, they will be treated like any other team mate and performances will not be judged on the premise of their sexual orientation.
The project took a massive step forwards today when it announced official partnership with the NHL and the NHLPA, making it the first of its kind in any professional sports and its players. In fact, since inception, NHL players and other sports teams have been supportive of the cause, which is evident of the project’s video testimonial page.
You Can Play Project was set up by Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers and son of Brian Burke, to honour his brother Brendan Burke. Brendan, a student manager for the Miami University Redhawks hockey team announced he was gay in 2009 and had worked to eradicate homophobia in hockey. Brendan was tragically killed in a car accident in 2010.
“Our motto is ‘Hockey Is For Everyone,’ and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way. While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, 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.” Said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in an official press release from NHL.com
The partnership between the organisations will include significant commitment to education and training for teams, players, media and fans. You Can Play Project will also conduct seminars at the NHL’s rookie symposium to educate prospects on LGBT issues. Additionally, You Can Play resources and personnel is available to each individual NHL team as desired.
The NHL and the NHLPA in turn will work with You Can Play Project to integrate the project into their Behavioral Health Program, which allows players to confidentially seek counselling or simply as questions regarding matters of sexual orientation.
“NHL players have supported the You Can Play Project since its inception, which we are pleased to formalize and expand upon with today’s announcement,” said Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director. “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.”
Where the You Can Play Project has been hugely popular, it did encounter a bump in the road in July last year when Cam Jansen made disparaging comments about homosexuals during a radio show. However, the issue was handled candidly and Jansen has since been in constant contact with Burke and the You Can Play team, according to a story on NHL.com.
One can only hope that You Can Play Project will be seeking to extend its partnerships outside of hockey and strike up similar partnerships with other professional sports organisations not only in the US and Canada, but across the globe. As said, If you can play, you can play.