By now hockey fans are familiar with the story of Brendan Burke, son of Leafs GM Brian Burke. Brendan was the first man in hockey to come out to his team as a homosexual while working as a coach at Miami University. The acceptance shown to him by his team and his family was a heartwarming story for all who have fears of doing the same and where the You Can Play Project gets its starting point.
You Can Play is getting support from a number of NHL players and showing their support through a PSA you’ll see later today on NBC’s game of the week between the Bruins and Rangers. Patrick Burke is a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers and one of the co-founders of You Can Play and Burke tells PHT that the aim of the project is to make the locker rooms and arenas safe for gay athletes.
“We’re trying to raise awareness of the issues LGBT athletes face. I don’t think enough people are aware just how hard a locker room can be on gay athletes of all ages,” Burke says.
Filming a PSA that features Patrick and his father Brian along with 12 NHL stars helps serve notice that the league is serious about breaking down the barriers for those that want to enjoy sports. Featured in the spot are Rick Nash, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf, Corey Perry, Andy Greene, Duncan Keith, Daniel Alfredsson, Brian Boyle, and Henrik Lundqvist. That’s a lot of fire power and there’s more help on the way.
“We’ve got 35 guys committed to the filming so far with 30 guys I believe now have been filmed,” Burke says. “We’re hoping that as other guys see the PSAs and see what we’re all about that more and more of them will find ways to get involved to show their support.”
It won’t be easy at the start, and we’ve seen instances this season where the kind of language they’re hoping to eliminate from locker rooms is out there, but with what the You Can Play Project is trying to do, Burke says their aim is to teach and not vilify.
“We’re about education. We’re not about anything else. We’re not about punishment or vilifying or making enemies. We’re just here to show people what the issues are and how best to combat them,” Burke says.
So it’s like teaching through kindness then?
“Yeah… Well, we’re still the Burkes so we’ll drop the gloves if we have to.”