The National Hockey League and its players announced today that it would be starting an initiative to promote gay athletes. This is a big deal because currently, while all major league sports organizations have anti-discrimination policies in place, there are currently no openly gay players in any of the national leagues. Many, however, have come out of the closet after retiring. The NHL’s new initiative is meant to help make the league a more gay-friendly space for players and fans. To that end, they have teamed with the You Can Play Project, an advocacy group that fights homophobia in sports, to help.
You Can Play will help by running seminars for rookies to educate them about gay issues, and give resources and personnel to any team that wants them. They’re looking to integrate this iniative into their behavioural health program, so that players will have access to counselors about sexual orientation issues confidentially. The program would also step in when a player makes homophobic remarks.
Part of the reason for this move with the hockey league in particular is because there are so many more players from countries that have much more progressive LGBT policies, like Europe and Canada, which makes its players more receptive to talking about this issues, says You Can Play co-founder Patrick Burke. According to the New York Times, the NFL, which is pretty notorious for player intolerance of this nature, is keeping a close eye on the public reaction to this program, with a mind to possibly adopting it in the future.
[via The New York Times]