New York—In an effort to promote tolerance and ensure that all players feel welcome, the National Hockey League is partnering with You Can Play, an anti-homophobia advocacy group. They plan to offer training and outreach programs to eliminate discrimination within the sport.
“This partnership solidifies the message that the hockey community believes in fairness and equality for everyone,” said Ron Hainsey, an NHL Players Association board member.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman realizes his league may face a backlash for taking a stand. “There’s nothing that anybody can do that will get unanimous support in this day and age,” he said. “You have to be comfortable that you’re doing what you believe is the right thing.”
So far, none of North America’s four major team sports has had an openly gay active player. According to recent rumors, though, one current gay player may come forward soon.
You Can Play was founded in honor of Brendan Burke, the son of a hockey executive. A year after announcing he was gay, Burke died in a car crash. Patrick Burke, his brother, said tolerance education is crucial. “If you were to go to a group of athletes and say, ‘Would you support an openly gay friend?’ the vast majority would say yes. But if you were to say, ‘How many of you have used an anti-gay term in the last 48 hours?’ the majority would also say yes. We have this disconnect.”
Burke added that homophobic slurs are “the only slurs today that can be explained away by someone saying, ‘I didn’t mean it that way.’ With other slurs, racial slurs, that doesn’t happen.”
Sources: cnn.com, cbssports.com, huffingtonpost.com, latimes.com
- What’s your reaction to this initiative? Do you think hockey players and fans will become more tolerant as a result? What kind of backlash, if any, do you expect against the league?
- To what degree is it possible to change people’s beliefs and actions? What type of training or education would be the most effective, in your opinion?
- How do you treat peers who are gay or different in other ways? Are your words and actions consistent, no matter if these peers are nearby? Explain.
- What effect do name-calling and slurs have on our culture as a whole? on the people they’re directed at? Are you willing to step in and encourage people to change their language? Why or why not?
- What role should Christians play in welcoming people of diverse backgrounds? Should we be expected to openly welcome anyone, even if we disagree with their lifestyle or beliefs? Explain.
- In your opinion, did Jesus preach tolerance? Why or why not? Why do you suppose he associated with the types of people he did? If Jesus were on earth today, whom might he hang out with, and why?
- How inclusive are you? Would you feel comfortable playing sports with a gay teammate? Why or why not? Are most of your friends similar to or different from you? Explain. What are the risks and advantages of hanging out with people on society’s margins?
Scripture links: Matthew 7:13-14; Mark 2:13-17; John 8:1-11; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Hebrews 13:1-2; James 2:1-13.