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
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.