NHL Teams With Gay Rights Group You Can Play

New awareness campaign is a first among major sports leagues

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in New York City.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in New York City.
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The National Hockey League has partnered with the You Can Play Project for what could be the most comprehensive campaign taken by a major men's sports league in support of gay rights, The New York Times reports.

You Can Play has long been dedicated to fighting homophobia in sports, and now the NHL will help them produce and broadcast a series of public service announcements to further the cause. You Can Play will also host seminars about gay issues for young players and make various resources available to teams as needed; the program will also be integrated into the NHL's behavioral health program, giving players the chance to speak confidentially to counselors about matters of sexual orientation.

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"Bottom line, it's the right thing to do, and that's what we're all supposed to do in this world," Donald Fehr, chief executive of the NHL Players' Association said.

The news comes amid growing speculation that a male athlete in one of the four major sports leagues will soon come out publicly as gay, though Patrick Burke, the founder of You Can Play (as well as a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers) said laying the groundwork for such an announcement did not factor into the creation of the program.

"But we're ready to do whatever that player wants," Burke said, when such an occasion arises. "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."