I had the opportunity to chat with Philadelphia Flyers’ scout Patrick Burke today. He’s on a bit of a whirlwind tour in New York right now discussing their family project inspired by his brother Brendan called “If you can play, You Can Play.”
For those of you who don’t know my connection to Brendan Burke’s story, a quick background:
A couple years ago I wrote a simple post for USA Today called “It’s time to end the use of gay slurs in hockey.” I was writing about hockey’s dressing room culture in general, and observing that it’s likely that many gay players in many dressing rooms aren’t comfortable coming out because of the lazy, “casual homophobia” that exists throughout our game. I figured it was time to stop that.
Brendan wrote me after reading my piece and told me his story. I asked if I could write it. He said yes (upon the approval of two people: his Dad Brian, and Miami of Ohio’s head coach Enrico Blasi. He was student manager there at the time. Both men gave him the green light).
Once they decided to bring his story to the public, they figured they might as well do it right and go big. John Buccigross wrote the story for ESPN, and here we are today.
Most of you know by now that we tragically lost Brendan in a car accident a little over two years ago now. That was a terrible, terrible day. His family is more determined than ever to not let his message get lost.
From there was born the “You Can Play” project, which involves a huge number of NHL stars from around the League, as you’ll see in the first PSA below:
Patrick explained what their message is all about (this quote was given to the Huffington Post):
“The messages are very simple, yet meaningful,” Patrick Burke said in an interview. “It’s variations of the idea that all they care about is winning, all they care about is having the best teammates and it doesn’t matter if the best teammate happens to be gay or straight.
“That plays no role in whether or not they would accept their teammate and that they would all be welcoming and supportive of an openly gay teammate.”
The message is dead-on. Our sport is about winning, so hey, if you can play, it’s pretty black-and-white: You Can Play.
In our chat earlier today, I asked Patrick where the project would go from here.
“There are more PSA’s to come in the near future. More and more NHLers are joining forces with us, showing their support. Eventually, we’ll be expanding the PSA’s into other sports, and we’re looking to get a similar PSA done with gay athletes.
By fall, we’ll have our full playbook to share with teams at varying levels of varying sports, which will explain how to make their programs more LBGT friendly.”
I also asked Patrick if working on this project has brought him closer with his father.
“I’m fortunate in that I’ve always been very close with my Dad. Our family really is fantastic. What people don’t realize, is that the women in the family are just [bleeping] amazing. My Dad and I get the attention for this stuff, but they deserve so much of the credit.”
I can vouch for Patrick there – my Mom did as much as my Dad over the years for Spina Bifida and Scoliosis charities, but my Dad tended to get the attention for it when we were on Long Island, as he was more in the public eye.
In the end, I’m just proud this program has started. I’m proud to be involved in it in any way. We’re making progress here.
Please share the PSA with anyone you know who might be interested. Getting it out there and creating conversation is just the start. I guess that’s why they called their first PSA “The Faceoff.”