Thirty players in the National Hockey League (NHL) are coming together to fight for gay equality in sports. The sports figures, scouts and others involved in a new campaign called, "You Can Play," are railing against the "casual homophobia" they see in locker rooms and sports more generally.
A new PSA that premiered during Sunday's game (New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins) features the players discussing the issues, while maintaining that the most important elements that dictate one's sports career should be skills and ability -- not sexuality.
The general premise behind the campaign is that there is language -- be it hurtful or inappropriate -- that is often used among players who assume that homosexuals aren't present in sports. In addition to combating the negative atmosphere that may result from this faulty assumption, the campaign also seeks to inspire gay athletes to come out and serve as role models to young people who may be struggling with their sexuality.
Here's the group's mission statement, as presented on its web site:
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’ve got this thing where people don’t think there are, or choose not to believe there are, gay athletes in their locker rooms," talent scout Patrick Burke (Philadelphia Flyers) explains. "You get what we call casual homophobia, with people almost always not realizing the effect it has on the kid in the corner of the locker room who is gay and is trying to keep it a secret."
Burke, who co-founded the "You Can Play" campaign, reiterates that the focus should be solely on athletes and their abilities. The end goal is to inspire an environment in which people are valued for their ability to play a sport, while not being held back by others because of their sexual orientation.
Below, watch the first ad from the campaign:
This is the first in a series of PSAs that are expected to come from the professional athletes.
(H/T: The Raw Story/Reuters)