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NHL Will Support Gay Athletes

Gregory Shamus, Getty Images

The National Hockey League announced today an initiative to support gay athletes. There has been a lot of speculation lately that at least one athlete in the NFL could announce soon that he is gay. Thursday the NHL decided to launch a program to support gay rights in sports. According to the NY Times, the message is clear. Everyone can play sports.

The N.H.L. said it had formed a partnership with the You Can Play Project, an advocacy group pledged to fight homophobia in sports, and planned training and counseling on gay issues for its teams and players.

“Our motto is Hockey Is for Everyone, and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way,” N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman said in the statement. “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.”

In a telephone interview Donald Fehr, the chief executive of the N.H.L.P.A. said: “Bottom line, it’s the right thing to do, and that’s what we’re all supposed to do in this world.”

You Can Play will help run seminars for N.H.L. rookies to educate young prospects on gay issues and make resources and personnel available to each individual team as desired. The league and union also will work with You Can Play to integrate the project into its behavioral health program, enabling players to confidentially seek counseling regarding matters of sexual orientation. Burke said the joint venture would also step forward when players make homophobic remarks.

Patrick Burke, a founder of You Can Play and a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, said laying the groundwork for an openly gay player was not an official part of the program.

“But we’re ready to do whatever that player wants,” Burke said. “If he wants to do a thousand interviews and march in pride parades, we’re equipped to handle that. And if he wants us to pass block for him so he never has to do another interview in his life, we’re equipped to handle that too.”

So was hockey not open to everyone before today? My problem with this is that there isn’t a problem in athletics and already the NHL and possibly other leagues are acting as though there is. Why does a player feel the need to come out anyway? It’s an athletic event. I don’t care about your sex life.

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