A couple days ago, we shared a video from a group called "You Can Play." If you missed it, the video is below. The basic idea, in case you can't spare a minute of your time, is that the Brian and Patrick Burke have decided to carry the torch for Brendan Burke, and fight for the rights of gay athletes. It is a truly magnificent initiative, and the players involved should be commended.
As of right now, those players are Rick Nash, Duncan Keith, Brian Boyle, Matt Moulson, Joffrey Lupul, Claude Giroux, Daniel Alfredsson, Scott Hartnell, Corey Perry, Andy Greene, Dion Phaneuf, and Henrik Lundqvist. According to an email, 30 NHL players have pledged support and recorded PSAs for the project.
More, after the jump.
The reason we haven't talked about this more until now? Trust. If the comment section turns into a political debate, it will be shut down. If you use any slur of any kind, you will be warned, and the comment removed. If you do it again, you will be banned from Hockey Wilderness. We do not want that to happen, so please... be respectful. If you can't be respectful, don't comment on this post.
This project is not about religion or politics. This project is about hockey, and is about putting the best team on the ice that you can. In a state obsessed with putting all Minnesotans on the ice, this may be a foreign concept, but it turns out that it takes a diverse team to win, and it doesn't matter at all where those players are from, what color their skin is, who their mom is, or who they might be in love with.
"What we've got in sports now is a culture that we describe as casual homophobia, which is athletes using gay slurs and homophobic slurs far too frequently, but they don't intend them to be homophobic," Patrick Burke said. "So it's an athlete saying, 'Oh, don't be gay.' He or she usually doesn't mean that in a homophobic sense; he or she means 'That's uncool, don't be uncool.' What we need to do is educate athletes that for a person who is a member of the LGBT community, there is no other way for them take that word. And we need to let the athlete know the force that those words have for an LGBT athlete."
The project features many ways to help change the way we think, speak, and converse. The simplest way to get involved is simply to make a conscious effort to end the use of the word "gay" to mean anything other than what it means. Using it as a synonym for negativity is no longer acceptable, even behind closed doors in a room full of machismo.
This is something that may be uncomfortable for some. It will be seen as some how making the game softer, or a violation of free speech... a move toward the political correctness that seems to be so pervasive in our society. Spain addresses this better than anyone I have seen:
These initiatives may seem like common sense to many of us, but a message of tolerance and inclusion is not always well-received by sports fans. Immediately following the release of the NBA's Think B4 You Speak PSA, Hill's Twitter feed was flooded with antigay sentiments. About a month earlier, when the NBA fined Kobe Bryant for calling an official an antigay slur, many said the penalty reflected a society that is too sensitive or PC, and argued that athletes shouldn't be subject to punishment or reprimand for their words. But freedom of speech isn't without limitations, and it certainly shouldn't be used to protect hate speech.
If Joe Schmo says something in the privacy of his home, that's one thing. But athletes represent the teams they play for, the leagues they play in and, more important, they are role models for young adults. By putting an end to homophobic comments on the court and in the locker room, they can show younger generations of athletes how to embrace every player, no matter his or her orientation. It's not a matter of appeasing an oversensitive minority or taking the toughness out of the game, it's an acknowledgment that hate speech and bigotry don't have a place in sports.
You all know me. I am about as politically correct as I am in love with stats. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say. I strongly believe that there are ways to get your point across without belittling a group of people in the process. People. Human beings. That's your punch line? That's how you want to get across that something is uncool or stupid? By demeaning an entire population of human beings? Ridiculous.
Unless you want to mock Oilers fans just for being Oilers fans. We can accept that.
To further my own role in this process, I have taken the Captain's Challenge:
As a team captain, I pledge to respect the talents and work of all my teammates. I will encourage my teammates to speak up for each other when confronted with slurs of any sort in the locker room or on the playing field. And I'll start discussions that promote the acceptance of all of my teammates in order to build trust and a winning ethic.
I have signed my name to this as the de facto captain of the Hockey Wilderness team. That team includes not only the staff, but also all of you in the comment section. We ban an amazing small amount of users when compared to the rest of SBNation. If there is one thing that can get you there through the express lane... use a slur of any kind.
Hockey Wilderness stands shoulder to shoulder with the You Can Play Project, and we ask each of our members to do the same. It doesn't matter who you are, where you are from, what color your skin is, or who you are in love with.