By: BROCK WILSON
The You Can Play campaign, which was launched in March 2012, is a wonderful sentiment and shows some impressive forward thinking from a league that has been under a lot of scrutiny as of late for it’s old fashioned views on fighting in the game.
Undoubtedly any player who came out publicly would face backlash from fans with their own views and possibly even players involved, but by garnering support from all teams, the NHL has displayed a mature and respectable position on an issue that has been prevalent in professional sports recently.
There have been many instances of homophobia in pro sports, like comments made by New Jersey Devils fighter Cam Janssen or San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver.
The really great thing about You Can Play is that the campaign also educates players and coaches on homophobia and the effect these comments can have. While ignorance will never be eliminated, it is important that steps to educate are being taken.
Friends of mine who have come out publicly say it is so hard to find acceptance, and this is exactly what the NHL and You Can Play is ensuring: full acceptance and support for any players who choose to come out.
Not only is this a great decision for the league, it also provides an ideal viewpoint for young fans growing up watching the game.
If kids see their favourite hockey players, their heroes, supporting the LGBT community, then they are going to do it to.
It is important that youth are educated on homophobia and homosexuality, especially in sports. Studies have shown homophobic attitudes are present in adolescent sports. A study by Danny Osborne and William Wagner showed that male adolescents who participated in football were significantly more likely to hold homophobic attitudes than other peers their age.
In a study on youth in the United States, it was found that lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression in gay youth were correlated with the prevalence of football in high schools.
While this is a great step for the NHL, You Can Play should now move to educating youth so that homophobia can be eliminated at a young age.
This is an updated article. A previous version of this article reported that the You Can Play campaign was launched in January of 2013. It launched in March of 2012.