If You Can Play… You Can Play

Anyone who plays a sport simply wants the chance to play and be judged on their abilities.

The new You Can Play Project has a mission to promote this premise.

You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.

You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.

You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.

You Can Play was co-founded by Patrick Burke, scout for the Philadelphia Flyers and brother of Brendan Burke, as a way to carry on Brendan’s legacy to create a safe playing environment for LGBT athletes.

The project kicked off this weekend with a party in New York City last night and a nationally televised debut for its first PSA during the Rangers/Bruins game on NBC (which happened just a few minutes ago). The PSA features an impressive array of NHL talent. In addition to Patrick and his father Brian, the GM for the Toronto Maple Leafs, you can see Rick Nash (Columbus Blue Jackets), Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks), Brian Boyle (New York Rangers), Matt Moulson (New York Islanders), Joffrey Lupul (Toronto Maple Leafs), Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers), Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators), Scott Hartnell (Philadelphia Flyers), Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks), Andy Greene (New Jersey Devils), Dion Phaneuf (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers).

With so much anti-gay rhetoric swirling around as the Republican presidential candidates use us as a way to raise money and get votes from the religious right, this message is critically needed. It tells young people that they can play and they should not be harassed as they pursue their athletic aspirations. Hopefully this will not only change the atmosphere in locker rooms and arenas across the country, but society in general as well.

I’m hopeful that my favorite teams–Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Alabama’s Frozen Tide–and all hockey programs across the country and world embrace this program and make it a part of how they operate.

Congratulations to Patrick Burke for the launch of the project and thanks to the players who took part in the initial PSA. I know the goal is to keep creating new PSAs and I look forward to seeing who else stands up for equality in the sport.

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