The NHL's New Gay Rights Initiative

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 11 2013 3:50 PM

The NHL's New Gay Rights Initiative

Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association threw their weight behind gay rights advocacy today, announcing a partnership with the You Can Play project to combat homophobia in sports.

It doesn't look like the NHL's gesture is purely symbolic. You Can Play will provide LGBT training for new players on NHL teams, and counseling on related issues for players who want it. The partnership will also speak out publicly against any homophobic remarks made by NHL players in the future. Here's the official statement from league commissioner Gary Bettman:

"Our motto is 'Hockey Is For Everyone,' and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way. While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players' Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands."

The partnership will also produce PSAs on LGBT issues featuring NHL players. A few NHL players, it should be noted, have already participated in You Can Play campaigns in the past year.

Although other professional sports leagues have non-discrimination policies that address sexual orientation, the NHL's announcement goes further. You Can Play founder Patrick Burke (who works as a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers) thought the league's more international player base might have something to do with their ability to come out more strongly for gay rights. Here's what he told the New York Times:

"'We have players from around the world, and a lot of those players are from countries that are seen as more progressive on LGBT issues,' Burke said. 'So I don’t think it’s unreasonable or strange to think that the N.H.L. and the N.H.L.P.A. are driving this, in part because our players tend to be more comfortable with this issue.'"

Should an NHL player decide to come out as gay, the partnership could help that player handle the inevitable onslaught of media attention. Again, You Can Play founder Patrick Burke, this time speaking to Rolling Stone:

"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."

Last week, speculation was on the rise that at as many as four National Football League players may come out as gay simultaneously, pushing the NFL to think about their own stance on LGBT inclusion in professional sports.


War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.


It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

The Only Good Thing That Happened at Today’s Soul-Crushing U.N. Climate Talks

  News & Politics
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM Why Is Autumn the Only Season With Two Names?
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.