The Saskatchewan Huskies announced the creation of “Athlete Allies” this past weekend during the 20th annual Breaking the Silence conference.
Breaking the Silence, the longest standing conference of its kind in Canada, discusses issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
For the first time, several Huskies announced a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) on Saturday to support athletes and breakdown stigmas in sport.
“It’s a group with the objective of promoting a more positive atmosphere, a more inclusive atmosphere for all the athletes and hopefully get a place for athletes to go if they’re having issues,” Huskies football player Josh Butcher said.
According to Butcher, the idea for Athlete Allies started at last year’s conference when Huskies Athletics presented their “You Can Play” video to advocate for positivity and inclusivity for all athletes of all sexual orientations.
“While at that conference, I had the chance to talk to Don Cochrane as well as Basil Hughton, our director of Huskies Athletics, and we determined there was a need for advocacy for LGBTQ athletes,” Butcher explained.
“I felt like that need hadn’t been met and it sounds like it’s a group that they’ve been trying to get started for a long time so within this past year myself and a few other athletes on all the teams … we all thought it would be a really great idea.”
University of Saskatchewan Prof. Don Cochrane has been organizing Breaking the Silence for two decades and said it’s become a widely diverse group of participants.
“We’re very excited in this next bit of our program. Huskie athletes have been forming their own, what would be the equivalent of a GSA inside Huskie land,” Cochrane said Saturday at Edwards School of Business in Saskatoon.
Butcher said they’re hoping Huskies will get to go to local high schools further down the line.
“Chatting with teams and start to attack this problem at its roots when a lot of these inappropriate ideologies start working their way into teams’ locker-rooms and how they function,” Butcher said.
“I think if we can start to eliminate some of those things at the base then hopefully we can prevent a lot of this from happening in the first place.”