Has it really been four years since we pondered the number of closeted lesbians and gay men in sports? Where does the time go? In that post, I made the rather obvious claim that many sports, especially those with large audiences like baseball, football, and hockey, are particularly unwelcoming to gay men. I am not aware of any out gay men among the active players at the professional levels of any of these sports, but a handful have come out after they retired. When are professional sports, bastions of traditional masculinity, ever going to catch up with the changing attitudes toward homosexuality in U.S. and Canadian society? Perhaps the first steps are underway.
The You Can Play project is a collection of professional sports figures, sportscasters, and some big organizational sponsors. They are led by Patrick Burke, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke and the brother of the late Brendan Burke, a gay man who worked in professional hockey before he died in a car accident in 2010. In Brendan Burke’s honour, Brian and Patrick Burke have publicly supported gay athletes, and they feature prominently in this ad supporting gay athletes and attacking homophobia in sport.
Now that you’ve got something in both your eyes, let me point out that in addition to the professional athletes in this video, many more have signed on to support this project. 38 NHL players have signed up to do similar videos so far. I’m sure there will be some backlash, but even our chief neanderthal, Don Cherry, has supported gay players, albeit in a rather clumsy way:
The Hockey Night commentator said yesterday he supports gay initiatives and has influenced teenagers to come out of the closet. He recalled plugging a gay hockey tournament in New York on Coach’s Corner several years ago.
“I got a nice letter from the head of the gays thanking me very much,” Cherry said. “The whole deal. And I wrote them back, too.”
If you have the head of the gays on your side, there’s really no stopping you.