NHL joins effort to get gay slurs out of sports

The NHL is teaming up with an organization that's trying to make professional sports leagues more welcoming to gay athletes. Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
The NHL is teaming up with an organization that’s trying to make professional sports leagues more welcoming to gay athletes. Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today/Reuters

The National Hockey League on Thursday formed a partnership with You Can Play, an organization that promotes equality for gay and lesbian athletes, hoping to make the league more welcoming to gay players, fans and officials.

The NHL is the first of the four major U.S. professional sports leagues to sign up with the year-old organization, which aims to make players more sensitive to the atmosphere of “casual homophobia” that can exist in locker rooms.

The announcement comes the week after Rutgers University in New Jersey fired its men’s basketball coach after ESPN aired video showing him berating players with homophobic slurs.

While that coach’s behavior was extreme, said Patrick Burke, a talent scout for the Philadelphia Flyers who co-founded You Can Play, it is not uncommon for players and coaches to use homophobic language, even if they consider themselves supportive of gay rights.

“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,” Burke said.

“We have this disconnect with people and that’s where education comes in. These 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.”

The league said it would launch an education campaign targeting players and fans intended to promote tolerance.

“Our motto is ‘Hockey Is For Everyone,’” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “The official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands.”

So far no pro athlete in any of the four major U.S. sports leagues — a list that also includes Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association — has come out as gay during his career.

Some, including former NFL defensive back Wade Davis, NBA center John Amaechi and MLB outfielder Billy Bean, have come out after retiring from their sports.

Burke’s brother, Brendan, was a manager of a college ice hockey team who came out as gay in 2009 and a year later died in a car accident.

Support for gay rights has risen markedly in the United States over the past decade, with gay marriage now legal in nine U.S. states plus the District of Columbia.

A March Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 63 percent of Americans support gay marriage or civil unions, though there were sharp regional differences with support higher in the Northeast and lower in the South.

Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBos


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

National

Divers struggle in search for South Korean ferry…

By Jungmin Jang and Narae KimMOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds…

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

NBA

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams…

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams have the best shot at a championship. The Thunder, Clippers, Heat and Rockets lead the way.

NFL

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.