Huskies hope to spread LGBTQ inclusion in sport with You Can Play Project night

By in Sports & Health

From Jan. 19 to 20, the Huskies hosted an event for You Can Play, an LGBTQ initiative that works to provide inclusive spaces in athletics. The hockey team used pride tape for their sticks, and Huskies pride T-shirts were given out to the first 150 people to arrive for basketball.

Huskies pride shirts were given to the first 150 fans through the door, and members of the men’s hockey team used rainbow tape in support of You Can Play.

You Can Play is a social-activism campaign that was launched by Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts and Glenn Witman in 2012. Their mission is to challenge the way athletic spaces are perceived and to create environments of inclusion for all athletes, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

Nicole Betker, the sports information director for Huskie Athletics, explains how the Huskies got involved in the project.

“Huskie Athletics Council, the student body for Huskie athletes, voted to become an official You Can Play Project school in 2014,” Betker said, in an email to the Sheaf. “In the spring of 2015, the Huskie Athletics video of support was launched on the You Can Play Project website.”

Patrick Burke, co-founder of the initiative, is the brother of Brendan Burke, who came out as gay in 2009, shortly before he passed away in a car accident. The Burke brothers were closely tied to the hockey world, as their father, Brian Burke, is a prominent NHL executive. Patrick, along with Kitts and Witman, founded You Can Play in Brendan’s honour in order to continue the fight against homophobia in sports.

The Huskies men’s hockey team played games on Jan. 19 and 20, and both the women’s and men’s basketball teams played on Jan. 19 in support of You Can Play, because as Betker discusses, the Huskies community believes in the same ideals as the founders of You Can Play.

“We want the Usask community to know that Huskie Athletics is a safe place to be an athlete, supporter and fan,” Betker said. “Huskie Athletics believes in inclusion in sport.”

This is the first You Can Play event hosted at the University  of Saskatchewan, but Betker hopes that it leads to greater awareness about this issue.

“This event on the weekend is the first of what we hope is a springboard to larger awareness for the You Can Play Project across … Canada West, U Sports and the Saskatoon university community,” Betker said.

In order to challenge the locker-room culture often associated with athletics, the founders of You Can Play hope to bring a focus to homophobia in sports by spreading awareness and advocating for fair opportunities for all athletes to participate in sports.

You Can Play aims to create an environment wherein athletes are judged based on their work ethic and talent in their sport rather than their sexual orientation or any other characteristic unrelated to their athletic prowess. The U of S chose to get involved because they hold the same beliefs, Betker explains.

“We believe in providing a safe and inclusive environment for all athletes, coaches and fans — and that your gender, religion, race or sexual orientation shouldn’t matter,” Betker said. “You are judged on your ability as an athlete in the sport of your choice.”

Lyndsay Afseth / Staff Writer

Photos: Katherine Fedoroff (top) David Hartman (bottom)