CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Less than a year after becoming the first Division I conference to partner with the You Can Play Project, the America East announced an expanded partnership that will educate student-athletes, coaches and administrators to help ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.
The organizations announced a partnership in December of 2012 and are now moving to expand educational initiatives that will include a speaker series, locker-room campaigns, You Can Play nights and videos created by campuses and teams to educate the general public.
The America East will work closely with the newly appointed director of You Can Play, Wade Davis. Davis is a nationally-recognized speaker, activist, writer and educator. He is a former NFL player with the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and two different NFL Europe teams.
In addition, the America East will work closely with GO! Athletes, which has recently formed a partnership with the You Can Play Project. GO! (Generation Out) Athletes is a national network of current and former LGBTQ student-athletes and allies at high school, collegiate, and post-graduate levels that serves to educate and empower. They connect LGBTQ student-athletes with other LGBTQ student-athletes, and serve as a united voice to encourage schools to create safer spaces. GO! Athletes is dedicated to educating athletes, coaches, administrators, and fans to foster athletic communities that are accepting of all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
"The You Can Play Project and GO! Athletes are thrilled to be partnering with the America East Conference to help facilitate conversations on college campuses around inclusion and diversity for all individuals," said Davis.
"This ground breaking partnership will bring LGBTQ athletes, coaches and straight allies to all the America East universities and work to end discrimination and bias. The You Can Play Project and GO! Athletes see this partnership as a model for other conferences to emulate. We celebrate the America East's leadership in taking the steps to ensure all individuals regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression or identity know that they are valued."
Anna Aagenes is the Executive Director of GO! Athletes and was a former middle distance runner at Penn. She graduated from Penn in May of 2010 as a member of Phi Betta Kappa and received the Penn Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alumni Association Award for her LGBTQA activism.
"We are extremely excited about the newly announced GO! Athletes/You Can Play partnership with the America East Conference to address LGBTQ inclusion on our college campuses," commented Aagenes. "I personally continue to be impressed by the America East leadership, coaches, and students who have taken the initiative to address how teams can become respectful and inclusive of all athletes. We believe that other conferences will soon follow the exemplary approach that the America East is taking toward addressing LGBTQ inclusion proactively through their athletic departments."
GO! Athletes and You Can Play will assist the America East in organizing a speaker series where current and former LGBTQ student-athletes will visit each of the nine campuses and speak to the entire campus community about their experiences and how to better the campus environment to be more accepting.
America East institutions Vermont, Hartford and most recently UMass Lowell have released videos of student-athletes speaking in support of You Can Play. In addition, the conference produced a feature about the You Can Play Project in conjunction with each of the nine campuses. More schools will continue to release similar features in the future.
Each of the nine America East campuses will host various initiatives throughout the academic year, including You Can Play nights at games, organize locker-room campaigns that will ensure respect and safety for all athletes, and create videos and other materials to educate all about the importance of equity without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.