Members of the New York Rangers are backing a good cause.
"If you can skate, you can skate. If you can shoot, you can shoot. If
you can score, You can score. If you can play, you can play."
NEW YORK, NY -- The message is clear and simple, if you have the
talent to play, nothing else should get in your way. And the "You Can
Play" initiative is something everyone should be able to get behind.
This movement is not about politics, or morals, it's about human
rights and equality. More than 30 hockey players have gotten behind
the simple concept, fueled and created by Patrick and Brian Burke, who
lost both a brother and son, respectively in 2010. It was during his
time as a student manager with Miami University that Brendan Burke,
Brian Burke's son, opened up about his sexual orientation to the
His news was well received, and resounding support was reciprocated by
his teammates, management, but most importantly his family. It was
unprecedented at the time for someone in an athletic community to be
so open about that aspect of their life.
"Imagine if I was in the opposite situation, with a family that
wouldn't accept me, working for a sports team where I knew I couldn't
come out because I'd be fired or ostracized ... people in that
situation deserve to know that they can feel safe, that sports isn't
all homophobic and that there are plenty of people in sports who
accept people for who they are," Brendan explained to ESPN.
Now, with rapidly growing support, from players, teams, and media
outlets, Patrick Burke is making a gargantuan movement toward social
reform. To make all sports, not just hockey, a place free from
homophobia, or any other discrimination for all athletes.
The first PSA aired a short time ago, on a nationally broadcast Sunday
afternoon game between the New York Rangers, and Boston Bruins.
Amongst the players vocally supporting the Burke's simplistic message
of tolerance, were Rangers teammates Brian Boyle and Henrik Lundqvist.
"When it comes to the game, that's where you are just supposed to be
able to go out and have fun no matter who you are," stated Boyle. "Any
kind of prejudice or foul play towards anybody who has a different
belief is not tolerated."
He also reaffirmed that it is not a political issue but that, "it's
pretty black and white, if you can play, you can play... No matter
what you do, or in any sport, the opportunity to play should be
With the strides made in social reform, and a change in attitude
towards fellow peers, it's almost astounding that sexual orientation
is still taboo in sports.
Or rather, that it should have any effect on how an athlete is
perceived by both teammates, and fans. There is simply no reason for
what Patrick Burke refers to as "Casual Homophobia" in locker rooms,
Fans have looked past such atrocities as convictions for major crimes,
and jail time in the past. And while the player's bottom line may have
taken a small hit, they will still be revered for their accolades when
the time comes. Their jerseys will still fly of the shelves come
Holiday season. And families will still gather around to watch them
flaunt their athletic abilities on television. So why is it that some
athletes still feel the need to live in fear and hide who they really
Henrik Lundqvist chimed in on the future of the movement, and the
impact he hopes it has: "I just hope everyone can be themselves. And
if this helps people come out, and be honest, and be able to relax,
then I think that's great."
"It's a great game an everyone should have the chance to play," he
also emphatically exclaimed.
As the initiative garners steam, more and more athletes are vocally
backing it, whether it be through PSA's or even taking to their
twitter to support the central idea of the issue. Which is, and will
Patrick Burke has explained that they are trying to harbor an
atmosphere of safety, and eliminate the casual homophobia, like the
use of homophobic slurs on the ice, or around the locker room.
Tough guy Brandon Prust, who earns his living with his fist as well as
his skills, was very quick to point out, "The World's changing, and
everybody needs to be aware of that."
"It doesn't matter who you are, everyone is equal," maintained Prust,
re-iterating what other players have already said.
"People look up to us. We're role models, so it's good for us to show
As Prust eludes to, it is important for athletes to use their
influence in an honorable way. To not use their esteem to take
advantage of situations for personal gain, but instead to better
themselves and their society.
The simple Mission Statement of "You Can Play," is as follows:
"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."
It's not impossible to build a culture of absolute tolerance, and
respect in sports. But it will require some work, and good on the
Burkes for getting the ball rolling.