The You Can Play Project has officially partnered up with the NHL to support gay athletes in their fight for equality. The NHL announced on its site that it has joined the LGBT rights group to educate tolerance on LGBT issues in the world of sports.
It's one of the first partnerships between an American sports league and a social activist group. You Can Play Co-founder Patrick Burke expressed his gratitude for NHL to spread the message of ensuring equality for LGBT athletes.
The NHL and the NHLPA [are]coming together and saying this is something from an ownership side, from a management side, from a player side, that we all believe that players and coaches and management and fans who are LGBT should be welcomed and feel safe and included in our arenas an our communities.
Burke created the You Can Play Project on March 4, 2012, after the death of his brother Brendan, who was also gay and fought for LGBT rights among hockey athletes. His father, former Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, has also given his support toward gay rights for athletes.
Last year, the organization faced a PR situation involving New Jersey Devils player Cam Janssen, who spoke on a radio show giving negative views on homosexuals. After speaking with Patrick Burke, Cam issued an apology and offered his support towards Burke's foundation. With the NHL fully supporting the nonprofit group, many players and teams gave the cause support last year, posting videos and statements.
The You Can Play Project has also joined with colleges, universities, and even Major League Soccer for support against homophobia in the sports world. Burke hopes that this will be a first step to get other sports leagues to also follow the same example:
I think now the other leagues can see that this is a group that does things right, that isn't going to embarrass their brand or try to create controversy or try to build our reputation and our work on the backs of athletes and leagues.