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GForce and Patrick Burke host successful forum with Boston college athletes

There was by all accounts a fantastic forum last Monday, Oct. 17, at the campus of the Christian Science Church in Boston. Discussion panels can be boooooring and not particularly productive. This one was lively in large part because of the collegial, open tone that developed into honest discussions about gay athletes showering with straight athletes, among other topics. Athletes and coaches from Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern University and UMass-Boston attended - pretty impressive!

The forum was presented by GForce, and Patrick Burke moderated the forum:

The Invisible Athlete Forum on Monday night was a tremendous success. We were honored to have representatives from so many Boston sports teams present, and Andrew, David and Lee-J did a fantastic job of being entertaining and honest with the athletes and coaches in attendance. I could not have been more pleased with the turnout, the panel, and the way we were received.

Based on feedback, I feel very excited that we made a difference for the teams in attendance. Once again, working with GForce has proven to be enlightening, entertaining and overwhelmingly positive.

Read an account from Northeastern University. Here's the full press release from GForce:

Boston, MA – The questions about gay athletes were tougher, the laughs louder and the crowd the biggest yet for a GForce Sports Invisible Athlete forum Monday night in Boston. More than 300 student athletes and coaches from the hockey, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, basketball and crew teams at Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern University and UMass-Boston attended.

Panelist and Princeton assistant women’s hockey coach Lee-J Mirasolo told an audience that included her former Boston College hockey team that coming out in high school made her sexuality a non-issue during college. To laughs from the audience, Mirasolo said her team experience included singing in the showers and camaraderie, not isolation. She agreed with panel member Dave Farber, former University of Pennsylvania hockey captain, that there’s “nothing sexy” about showering together when the focus is on washing away smell and grime.

While Farber and fellow panelist, former Dartmouth All-American lacrosse star Andrew Goldstein, struggled with coming out to their coaches and teams, they said the humor and honesty used with their teammates eventually made them better players and team leaders.

Questions from the audience were more pointed than in previous Invisible Athlete forums held in Toronto, Denver, Aspen and Naples. The NHL Network’s Kathryn Tappen was in the audience and got acknowledgment from all three panelists that they felt some regret in not being forthcoming about their sexuality at points in their lives. A youth hockey coach asked for advice in warning young players about a rough, potentially homophobic environment in the sport. And, when asked if they would now rather be straight, all three panelists said no.

“Audiences are open to the message that athletes are better when they’re focused on improving ability and teamwork,” forum moderator Patrick Burke said. “Casual homophobia and fear in the locker room don’t have a place in reaching those goals.”

Burke, a Philadelphia Flyers scout and son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, began speaking on behalf of gay athletes following the death of his younger brother, Brendan Burke, the openly gay student manager of Miami University’s hockey team.

“These forums are important because they show the combined effort of gay athletes and straight allies in improving conditions for all athletes,” said Glenn Witman, GForce president. Earlier in the day, Farber and Goldstein spoke to coaches and students at the Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield, MA.

The Boston forum was sponsored by Northeastern University’s Sport in Society program.

GForce Sports is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equality in sports regardless of sexual orientation. In addition to friendly competition between gay and straight teams, GForce provides speakers from a number of sports through its Invisible Athlete forums and one-on-one mentoring of athletes working through issues of sexuality with its Athlete Buddy System. For more information, visit