CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The America East Conference and the You Can Play Project announced a partnership today that will be dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. The conference office along with student-athletes, coaches and administrators from all America East institutions will combine with You Can Play to help to educate and change the culture regarding the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes in the locker room and on the playing field.
“The America East and its members are delighted to partner with the You Can Play Project,” said America East commissioner Amy Huchthausen. “We want to create an environment of inclusion in the locker room and on the playing field and we’re committed to implementing the mission of You Can Play across the conference. The America East strongly supports Patrick and the work he has done, and we look forward to engaging our student-athletes, coaches, fans and administrators in this partnership as we move forward.”
The America East is the first Division I athletic conference to partner with the You Can Play Project. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the America East Conference and its member teams to create safe arenas for LGBT players, coaches, and fans,” said Patrick Burke, co-founder of the You Can Play Project. “For LGBT athletes currently attending these schools, or who may be considering which school to attend in the future, today is truly a game-changer. We will work hard to help America East create inclusive locker rooms through education, policy creation, and programs which will help shape the culture of athletics at each school. With the help of the great schools, we look forward to showing that inclusive locker rooms lead to championship teams.”
Patrick is the older brother of Brendan Burke, who made headlines for being an openly gay equipment manager for the Miami University Redhawks in 2009. Brendan died tragically when his car lost control in a snow storm on an Indiana highway in February 2010. Patrick carries on his younger brother’s legacy and vision with the You Can Play Project.
By joining the You Can Play team, the America East and its member institutions promise respect and safe locker rooms for all student-athletes regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit. The America East will support You Can Play in its mission to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.
“This project and partnership provides a great opportunity for America East to make our programs a more safe and respectful place for all student-athletes,” stated Bob Corran, Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics at the University of Vermont. “By focusing on athletes’ skills, commitment, work ethic, and competitive spirit, we can help eliminate homophobic behavior and attitudes, and challenge the locker-room culture.”
As part of the initiative, You Can Play will work closely with the America East Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and current SAAC President Curtis Schickner. “The America East Conference SAAC is proud to support the You Can Play partnership through each of our SAAC’s and institutions,” said Schickner. “We believe this initiative helps foster a positive athletic experience for all student-athletes, regardless of sexual orientation, and hope to create a more-inclusive environment on all of our teams and campuses.”
To support the cause, the conference and its member institutions will partner for various promotional and programming initiatives that will help to better educate student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans, to bring about a change in culture that will make it acceptable to speak out in favor of LGBT athletes on campus.
About the America East
Now in its fourth decade of operation, the America East Conference has evolved into one of the most comprehensive NCAA Division I conferences in the country with a commitment to broad-based, competitive athletics programs, complementing the academic integrity and missions of the member institutions. Progressive in its approach to its more than 3,400 student-athletes, America East recognizes champions in each of its 20 sports. America East also conducts the nation’s most comprehensive academic recognition program for student-athletes and collaborates on several community service initiatives throughout its geographic footprint each year. With members spanning from the Mid-Atlantic to Northeast regions of the United States, America East strives to develop champions in academics, athletics and leadership at its nine member institutions: University at Albany, Binghamton University, Boston University, University of Hartford, University of Maine, UMBC, University of New Hampshire, Stony Brook University and University of Vermont.