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Making Us Proud: UCLA Hockey and Figure Skating Support "You Can Play" Project

You Can Play - UCLA Bruins Hockey and Figure (via YouCanPlayProject)

Much respect is due the UCLA hockey and figure skating teams for their support of the "You Can Play" project. In the video above, they make it clear that to them it doesn’t matter if a teammate is gay or straight, it only matters if one can shoot, pass or defend.

This week, Deadspin has been covering the story of Lenny Palumbo, a "columnist" for something called the Niagara Falls Reporter here and here. Palumbo apparently has a problem with the NHL’s "You Can Play" project – a project that supports the participation of gay athletes in sports. (I choose not to give a direct link to Palumbo’s work.)

The project is actually not the NHL’s, though the league is fully supportive of it. As Deadspin notes, "You Can Play is an independent initiative featuring hockey players from all levels of the sport making it clear that sexual orientation shouldn't be a barrier to playing sports, that all people deserve the same respect.

The project was founded by Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts and Glenn Wittman. Patrick Burke is a scout with the Philadelphia Flyers. Los Angeles sports fans may recall Patrick’s father, Brian Burke. He is currently an executive with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but was once the GM of the Anaheim Ducks. Patrick is also the brother of the late Brendan Burke, who was a student manager for Miami of Ohio’s hockey team. Brendan came out during his sophomore year in college, he was later was killed in an car accident.

Brendan’s story of a gay man accepted in the supposedly "macho" world of hockey became an inspiration to everyone who believes that LGBT men and women should be accepted in the world of sports (and everywhere else, for that matter).

Deadspin’s coverage of the issue today led me to check out the "You Can Play" website. The site features short videos of straight hockey players – both from the NHL and college, maybe some minor league teams, too, along with a few videos from other sports – delivering the message that sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Each features the tagline "If you can play, you can play." The first that caught my eye featured the Los Angeles Kings Dustin Brown and Alec Martinez.

Well, it was very gratifying to me to see that the UCLA hockey team and figure skating team had posted a video in support of "You Can Play." As a Bruin myself, I’m proud that these young athletes took the time out of their busy schedules to stand up for something so important, something they believe in.