ABOVE: Brian Burke joins Global Calgary with details on the ‘You Can Play’ project. NOTE – language in video may offend some viewers.
CALGARY – Calgary Flames executive Brian Burke says the use of homophobic slurs is unacceptable in sports – or anywhere for that matter.
The President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames is making it a priority to change the attitudes of athletes.
Burke joined Global Calgary on Tuesday to discuss the ‘You Can Play’ project, which aims to make locker rooms and sports venues free from homophobia.
Burke is on the organization’s advisory board and his son Patrick is the co-founder. Both share a special connection to the cause, after suffering through the devastating loss of Brian’s other son Brendan, who died in a car crash shortly after coming out.
“My son Patrick and I, we’re determined to carry on [Brendan’s] legacy, keep his memory alive,” explained Burke.
“We find that gay male athletes are dropping out of team sports, in large part because of the homophobic nature of the dressing room,” he adds.
In September, Toronto Marlies Head Coach Dallas Eakins helped Patrick Burke launch the ‘Marlies pledge’ – in which players on the American Hockey League team promised to support their teammates, coaches and fans whether they are gay or straight.
BELOW: ‘You Can Play’ joins with the Toronto Marlies to end homophobic behaviour.
Burke says ‘You Can Play’ hopes to bring that same pledge to every team in the National Hockey League, although it may take a few years to get there.
“Take a pledge that this is an atmosphere where everyone is welcome, homophobia is not tolerated, neither is racism or any other ignorant attitudes.”
When asked if he felt some progress had been made in professional sports, Burke said he thinks attitudes have changed “wonderfully” in favour of the LGBTQ community.
“Michael Sam was just drafted in the NFL, we had an Olympic athlete in Calgary who came out recently – a luger I believe – and we had a rugby player who came out,” said Burke.
“We know we have gay players in the National Hockey League, just one hasn’t felt comfortable coming out yet.”
“That day will come,” adds Burke. “And I think that athlete will get a much warmer reception than he probably thinks he will right now.”
“I’m encouraged by the progress we’ve made – these are not doors that get kicked in, they’re walls that crumble over time.”
“If you’re LGBTQ you’re in a much better world than you were, but there’s still lots of work to be done,” he concluded.
For more information on the ‘You Can Play’ program, CLICK HERE to visit their website.