GM promotes inclusion
LGBTQ players should feel safe in locker room
Can you name three openly gay professional athletes? Don’t feel bad if you can’t.
The fact is the NHL and NFL don’t currently have any openly gay players. Multiple articles have been written from The Hockey News to Sports Illustrated that National Hockey League players would embrace a teammate who came out to his or her team, but have yet to receive one.
Players including the outspoken Sean Avery to Antonio Cromartie have made it very clear that they will support gay rights in hockey, but overall it is not a very talked about subject.
So why are these players not coming out? “Casual homophobia” may be the answer. In a new project created by Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and his son Patrick, a new effort is being created towards eliminating the attitudes and stereotypes that exist in a typical locker room culture today.
Burke’s other son Brendan, an openly gay athlete who was a team manager for the Miami(Ohio) University hockey team, died in a 2010 car crash at the age of 21.
The project, called “You Can Play,” is looking at tearing down any borders that stops an athlete from playing. As the name goes, if you can play, you can play — bottom line. There would hopefully be no more of Patrick’s coined casual homophobia.
“Those guys are using homophobic slurs, but not meaning them in a homophobic sense. You see a guy say ‘don’t be gay’ and he’s not saying ‘don’t be a homosexual,’ he’s saying ‘don’t be an ass,’” Burke explained when announcing the project.
“We’re all about making fun of each other. I understand how guys bond. But we need to cut out that language so those athletes who are hiding can feel safe.”
More information about the project can be found at youcanplayproject.org.
An MRU athlete, who asked not to be identified, echoed the sentiment. “I have a gay cousin, and I love him. Homophobia has never been an issue in our family, and it’s because of him. But it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment when you’re just shooting the shit with your team. Yeah, I’ve thrown ‘gay’ out there, but it doesn’t mean I couldn’t handle having a gay teammate. As soon as you’re playing, it doesn’t really matter.”
When teammates of every single minority group are accepted without question, then we can really begin to look to professional athletes as are our heroes.
Until then, we are comforted in knowing that our idols can be supportive of everyone, if they are given the chance to be supported.
By looking at a player like baseball’s Jackie Robinson, who broke the colour barrier and began a long and successful history of African-American players, it likely comes as no surprise that once we have one gay athlete, many more will feel safe to come out, which benefits everyone in sport.
With growing support of gay rights worldwide, it’s not hard to believe that this day may be coming soon. If not this generation, then surely in the next we will be able to look to a gay athlete who is an international star, and their sexuality will not play a part in their success whatsoever.