NHL Forms Partnership To “Invite” Gay Athletes, Not Just “Tolerate” Them

1297312154654_ORIGINALWith several professional athletes rumored to be coming out of the closet in the very near future, the sports leagues of America are preparing to roll out the red carpet for them in an effort to embrace diversity and combat homophobia in sports. While everyone remains fixated on the players of the NFL, it looks like the National Hockey League may be the most accepting of all.

During a press conference held last night, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (right) and NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr joined You Can Play project founder Patrick Burke in announcing a partnership that won’t just tolerate openly gay athletes in the NHL, but welcome them. “While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community,” said Bettman, “we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture…that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands.”

“The big shift is that this is a professional sports league saying not that, ‘We tolerate you,’ not that, ‘We’ll deal with it if we need to,’ but that they’re inviting us in,” added Burke. “It’s exciting.”

A first of its kind, the legally binding partnership will allow You Can Play to conduct seminars educating players on gay equality issues, integrate the organization’s message of “respect for all” into the league’s Behavioral Health Program, allow players to confidentially seek counseling or education, and create public service announcements that promote equality.

Now that the NHL is working toward making equality a major issue for all sports leagues, let’s start working on those uniforms. We know the ice is cold, but we’d probably watch more often if the players were as scantily clad as Turkish wrestlers.