April 1, 2014 3:17 pm

Flames GM Brian Burke sounds off against homophobic slurs

CALGARY- He’s never been one to mince words, and now the Calgary Flames’ general manager is taking aim at homophobic slurs.

At a fundraiser for the Calgary Sexual Health Centre on Tuesday morning, Brian Burke said slurs are a form of bullying aimed at the gay and transgendered community.

He’s now urging both Flames fans and players to become more accepting of different sexual orientations.

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“Fans not allowed to make homophobic comments, players not allowed to use homophobic language, dressing room free from homophobic slurs…we’re going to try and put that in place next year with our Flames,” he explained, to the cheering crowd.

“We know we have gay athletes that play in the National Hockey League, it’s only a matter of time before one of them comes out and I hope it’s on my team.”

Burke co-founded the ‘You Can Play’ project after his youngest son Brendan died in a car crash four years ago. Just months earlier, Brendan had announced he was gay.

The message behind it is simple: if you have talent, you can play, regardless of your sexual orientation. Some athletes have recently come out, and a Calgary Stampeder whose mother is gay says he does not tolerate slurs.

“I’ve just come to understand there’s certain words that shouldn’t be used, deragatory slurs, and I’ve just started saying stuff,” says Jon Cornish. “Over the last four, five years, I’ve really spoken up whenever I have heard it in the locker room, and it think our locker room is now a more accepting place.”

Burke says he believes attitudes are changing for the better.

“I don’t think it’s this generation that we have to educate. I think the first hockey player who comes out is going to find great acceptance like my son did,” he says. “I worry more about people my age than people who are hockey players’ age.”

The Flames Foundation donated $5,000 to a program operated by the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, aimed at helping Grade 9 boys understand issues like homophobia.

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