With the launch of Patrick Burke's You Can Play project, the mainstream media has a great entree to talk about gay-sports issues this week. And they're using it. With 30 NHL players lined up behind the project, plus the Burke family, there is a strong sports hook. And the fact that it is mostly straight athletes participating (so far) makes it frankly an easier sell to their readers. Here's a rundown of some of what's being said. Yahoo Sports' Puck Daddy talked about the use of homophobic slurs in sports:
You Can Play is as much about acceptance of gay players in hockey as it is about curbing this type of behavior, be it "casual homophobia" or intentional ugliness. But Burke said the organization isn't asking for any sort of draconian rules that heavily penalize this language, nor is it asking the players to sign a pledge of any kind not to use it.
"I'm not a big believer in rules. We're trying to educate these players. The NHL has their own rules for homophobic slurs, which I fully support. Our athletes that are participating don't have to sign anything. We're just asking them to think about it," he said.
It’s no longer a question of if we’ll have an openly gay athlete in team sports. It’s just a question of when. Charles Barkley, the former NBA star, has said his league is ready. And he’s on record as having said he’s already played with and against gay players. The NBA already has an openly gay executive in Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts, who came out last year while he was CEO of the Phoenix Suns.
Now it’s the NHL’s turn to take a stand. Burke already has an impressive array of NHL stars lined up to appear in the spots, which are bound to generate lots of discussion. Certainly NHL players will be talking about the spots, as will fans, front-office types and players. And the beauty of it all is that NHL players don’t have to get political, which means reporters who ask them about same-sex marriage and other hot-button topics may be disappointed by the responses.
From the Washington Post sports blog:
Since his younger brother Brendan became one of the most prominent gay figures in North American sports, Patrick Burke has made frequent outreach efforts to athletic teams and organizations about ending homophobia in sports. After he and his family members — including father Brian Burke, the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs — were done speaking, they would invariably be asked the same question by coaches and players: What do we do next?
“And we just got tired of not having an exact answer for that question,” Patrick told me last week. “We wanted to formalize it, to say to players and coaches and administrators: Here is what you do to make sure your locker room’s safe, and your teammates feel welcome.”