NHL Announces Partnership to Support Gay Athletes

Donald Wood@@Donald_WoodFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 09:  National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks with the media at a press conference announcing the start of the NHL season at the Westin Times Square on January 9, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The National Hockey League will support gay rights by teaming up with the You Can Play Project to help educate teams and players about equality, according to Jeff Z. Klein and Judy Battista of the New York Times.

With the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association backing the rights of gay athletes to play hockey, this is the largest effort by a major men’s sports league to support equality.

The You Can Play Project is a group founded to fight homophobia in all sports, and with the help of the league, it will teach NHL organizations and their players about gay rights and equality.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave a statement (via the New York Times) about the partnership and what the league hopes to accomplish:

Our motto is Hockey Is for Everyone, and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way. We are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the N.H.L. Players’ Association that the official policy of the N.H.L. is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands.

There are also plans for the NHL to sponsor several public service announcements supporting the cause, which will likely feature the top names in the sport and be broadcast during the league’s programming.

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Another aspect of the partnership is the counseling the You Can Play Project will offer to the league and its players who have questions. 

It’s obvious from the depth of the partnership that the league is going all-in on its efforts to make every player feel comfortable in the NHL. There is no denying that every member of the hockey community should be treated the same.

The NHL’s announcement comes on the heels of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo telling the Baltimore Sun he believes up to four players in the NFL may simultaneously come out as homosexuals in a public manner to take the burden off the others still hiding the truth.

With so much change in the world, the fact that a major professional sports league like the NHL has taken such a firm stance will be the very beginning of the sports world coming out in support of gay athletes and equal rights.