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Update: The International Triathlon Union reverses “propaganda” rule on LGBTQ symbols in races

As reported today by Outsports, the International Triathlon Union has decided to reverse a recent rule change that would have banned rainbow flags or other symbols of LGBTQ pride under a propaganda ban.

It's important to give credit where credit is due. We applaud the International Triathlon Union for understanding how a rule banning LGBTQ symbols of pride during races could negatively affect athletes and for quickly taking action to reverse its previous rule change. The ability to have open discussions and find the best outcomes for all athletes, fans, and organizations is a win for all of us.

Original post: 

The International Triathlon Union, the main governing body of for triathlons around the world, has already received deserved critism for a recent rule change that could mean banning rainbow flags and other forms of "propoganda" that demonstrate an athlete's sexual orientation. The new rule states: 

“Athletes will avoid displaying any kind of demonstration of political, religious, sexual orientation or racial propaganda.”

You Can Play works hard to assure sport is a place where everyone is welcome, and is free to show their pride. Our work across professional, collegiate, and amateur sports is dedicated to this mission. Visibility is an important part of that, and rainbow flags or other symbols of pride are how athletes can create that needed visibility as proud LGBTQ athletes or as allies.

Athletes should be free to bring their whole selves to their sport, especially among identities that have historically been a cause of discrimination within sports. The International Triathlon Union may have good intentions of creating safe spaces for their races, but rainbow flags or other symbols of LGBTQ pride shouldn't be considered propaganda, and this is a step in the wrong direction for showing younger athletes that if you can play, you can play – regardless of your sexual orientation.

We are proud of the work we've done with Chris Mosier and others in the triathlon community, and certainly across all sports. We'll continue to partner with leagues and governing bodies, including attempts to work with the International Triathlon Union, to educate organization, players, coaches, and fans about ways to ensure all athletes are judged on their skill and work ethic alone, not their sexual orientation or gender identity. 




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College Athletics Veteran, IBM Diversity Exec Join You Can Play Board to Fight Homophobia in Sports

You Can Play Project announced today that it has added two new members to its Board of Directors: America East Conference commissioner Amy Huchthausen, and IBM diversity and LGBTQ markets development executive Kimberley Messer. The addition of these two front runners in the fight for equality and respect in sports and business will help You Can Play to continue reaching millions of athletes and families across the world to promote the message that if you can play, regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity – you can play. 

Amy Huchthausen is in her eighth year as Commissioner of the America East Conference, an NCAA Division I college athletics conference. During her tenure, the league has been recognized as a leader in diversity and inclusion through its partnerships with various organizations and its emphasis on LGBTQ+ programs such as its #SpreadRespect campaign. Huchthausen has served on the Board of Directors for Women Leaders in College Sports and numerous NCAA committees during her 19 years in the college sports industry.  A native of Minnesota, Huchthausen currently lives in Boston.

Kimberley Messer has spent more than 18 years with IBM, currently serving as a business development leader for the Global Diversity Business Development segment with a focus on LGBTQ markets in the US and Canada. She is a member of Out & Equal’s Global Advisory Committee, serves on Pride at Work Canada’s Executive Board of Directors, and previously served as the chair of IBM Canada’s LGBT business resource group. Kimberley lives in Toronto with her wife and two children.

“I’ve seen first-hand the importance of You Can Play’s mission through our partnership with the America East Conference over the last few years,” said Amy Huchthausen, America East Conference commissioner.  “Joining the board is an amazing opportunity to help spread that message to more locker rooms and stadiums.”

“You Can Play’s work is just as important in the board room as it is in the locker room, and I know that there are millions of people across the world that will benefit from hearing it,” said Kimberley Messer, IBM diversity and LGBTQ markets development executive. “I’m honored and excited for the continued growth of this organization and to join such a talented and passionate group.”

You Can Play works with collegiate and professional sports organizations, such as the partnership with the NHL for Hockey is for Everyone month and the trainings that the organization runs for players, coaches, and staff at universities in multiple countries. These programs have tangible impact on helping to create an environment of respect for current and future athletes and fans. Additionally, You Can Play has forged strong relationships with the corporate community through organizations such as Out and Equal's Workplace Summit and more, assuring that the message of You Can Play is being voiced and supported everywhere. With the help of Huchthausen, Messer, and the rest of the organization, You Can Play is committed to growing this message in 2019 and beyond.



About You Can Play

You Can Play is dedicated to erasing homophobia in locker rooms and sports venues through a focus on language and programs that emphasize and athlete’s talent, skill and commitment to a sport over sexual orientation or gender identity. Visit www.youcanplayproject.orgfor additional information.


Ryan Pettengill

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Los Angeles Valiant establish unprecedented partnership with You Can Play

LOS ANGELES (June 1, 2018) — The Los Angeles Valiant announced today the formation of a social change partnership with the You Can Play Project, an organization dedicated to ensuring safety and inclusion for all who participate in all sports — including LGBTQ+ players, coaches, and fans. You Can Play has found prominence with support from the athletes and leaders within traditional sports organizations, such as the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer. The LA Valiant are the first esports organization, franchise, or team to join the social change movement.

“For too long, the esports industry has been unfairly characterized as a toxic, unwelcoming environment,” said LA Valiant CEO Noah Whinston. “This assumption runs counter to the core values of the Los Angeles Valiant organization and our partnership with the You Can Play Project further cements our dedication to making the LA Valiant an inclusive community. The message is simple: no matter who you are, who you love, or what gender you identify as — if you can play, you can play.”

In 2012, You Can Play was launched by Patrick Burke of the NHL along with Brian Kitts, a sports and entertainment marketing executive, and Glenn Witman of GForce Sports. Brendan Burke, brother of Patrick Burke and son of Brian Burke, a longtime NHL executive, made international headlines when he came out as gay in 2009. A few months after coming out, Brendan died in a car accident and You Can Play was founded in his honor.

“You Can Play is honored to have the LA Valiant as our first esports partner,” added Ryan Pettengill, Executive Director of You Can Play. “They are an organization committed to promoting diversity in and around esports; we are happy to be a part of that effort and so appreciative of their support.”

As part of the partnership, You Can Play will provide diversity and inclusion training to LA Valiant players, coaches, and organization staff. The team will film a PSA to promote awareness of the You Can Play initiative among the esports community. You Can Play will have a presence at select Valiant events for fans to interact with and learn more about the organization and their initiatives. When the LA Valiant move to their home arena in 2020, You Can Play will help facilitate “Pride Night” events.

Additionally, the LA Valiant will sell pride-themed iron-on Valiant Pride Patches at throughout the month of June. A portion of the proceeds will go to the non-profit You Can Play Project and help deliver educational and awareness resources to sports communities of all ages to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion. The Valiant Pride Patch will make its debut in competition on Saturday, June 2 when the LA Valiant play the New York Excelsior at 3 p.m. PST.

Fans have two opportunities to receive the limited edition LA Valiant Pride Patches for free: Saturday, June 9, at Blizzard Arena and Sunday, June 10, at Gym Sportsbar in West Hollywood as a part of the Be Valiant: LA Valiant Pride Party.


About the Los Angeles Valiant:

The Los Angeles Valiant are one of two Los Angeles-based franchises in Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, which began play in January 2018 as the first esports league to feature local market affiliations for its teams. The LA Valiant are owned and operated by Immortals, LLC, a global esports organization based in Los Angeles. Founded in 2015, Immortals has raised strategic investment from AEG, Lionsgate, the Milken Family, and Steve Kaplan. Immortals competes in leading esports titles including CS:GO, DOTA2, and Super Smash Brothers as well as mobile esports Clash Royale and Arena of Valor in its newly created Immortals Mobile division. Immortals and the LA Valiant strive to create a long-lasting community of professional gamers, aspiring players, and passionate fans, united by a commitment to competitive excellence and a welcoming environment for all. For additional information:,, and follow on Twitter: @LAValiant.

About the You Can Play Project:

You Can Play works to ensure safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBTQ athletes, coaches and fans. You Can Play believes sports teams should focus on the athlete's skills, work ethic, and competitive spirit, not their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. More information about You Can Play can be found at

Press Contacts:

Jen Neale

LA Valiant

Nick Valente

B/HI, on Behalf of LA Valiant

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Scotiabank is Supporting You Can Play with a $20,000 Donation to Promote Inclusion in Sport

Scotiabank is continuing its support of You Can Play with a $20,000 donation to support educational outreach to university and kids’ community hockey leagues through complementary LGBTQ+ inclusion in hockey workshops and resources.

To symbolize Scotiabank’s support of You Can Play and their work focused on inclusion in sport, You Can Play was presented with a Scotiabank Hockey Club jersey at the February 24, 2018, Toronto Maple Leafs game. The game celebrated the National Hockey League’s Hockey is for Everyone™ month and the work of You Can Play.

 “At Scotiabank we are committed to helping young people reach their infinite potential both on and off the ice, a commitment shared by You Can Play,” said John Doig, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Champion of Pride at Scotiabank. “We applaud You Can Play for the important work they do to ensure everyone is included in sport. Through our support of the You Can Play LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Hockey Program, Scotiabank knows that important education will be provided to help coaches, administration and players create inclusive environments for all.”

"Scotiabank’s commitment to promoting inclusion both in the workplace and in sport is making an important difference across the country and we are honored to receive their generous support,” said Ryan Pettengill, Executive Director, You Can Play. With partners like Scotiabank, You Can Play can provide more programs and resources to make sport, and sports culture, more inclusive for all."

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You Can Play names Ryan Pettengill as its executive director

Non-profit executive and Ironman athlete Ryan Pettengill has been named the executive director of You Can Play, the group’s board has announced.

Ryan joins You Can Play with more than 20 years of experience in athletics and health promotion, and he has worked extensively with athletes of all levels, specifically focused on improving sports culture and leveling the playing field for equal access to health, recreation, and sports programming.

“We deeply respect Ryan’s passion for improving the lives of others,” You Can Play co-founder Brian Kitts said. “That passion, along with his work in program development and non-profit management, will make Ryan an ideal leader in working for You Can Play’s mission of LGBTQ equality in sports.”

Ryan has served as the director of a national project to encourage philanthropy among amateur, professional, Olympic, and college level athletes. He also served as Executive Director of Athletes United for Social Justice (The Grassroot Project), an organization focused on solving health disparities and reducing stigma through dialogue between athletes and young people, creating a safe space for youth to learn about sex and sexuality. Ryan also helped draft the District of Columbia Department of Health’s three year Youth Sexual Health Plan; and he served on a federal campaign aimed at improving health care enrollment in underserved communities. Through his work with the State Board of Education and DC Public Schools, Ryan helped expand DCPS’ K-12 Health Standards and curriculum to more effectively address risk behavior, stigma, and knowledge around sexuality and sexual health.

"I’m proud to join You Can Play,” Ryan said. “I’m excited to work with our Board, staff, and other partners to continue building for a bright future and to continue the fight to level the playing field for all athletes”.

Ryan’s other experiences include time as a high school athletic director, general manager of a chain of health and recreation facilities, and COO for one of the largest endurance sports teams in the country. He has a master's degree in physical education with a concentration in sport management from Florida State University and a Sport Philanthropy Executive Certificate from George Washington University. He proudly served on the Board of Directors for Girls on the Run. Ryan is a certified coach, former college swimmer, three-time Ironman finisher, and avid ultra-marathon runner who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his wife, Elizabeth, and two kids, Gavin and Emily.

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You Can Play awarded 2017 IOC Trophy for Sport Beyond Borders

TORONTO (November 30, 2017) — On Saturday, November 25, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s (COC) Awards and Recognition Committee presented the 2017 International Olympic Committee (IOC) Trophy for Sport Beyond Borders to You Can Play.

Since 1985, the IOC has awarded a trophy to recipients identified by National Olympic Committees in their respective communities that highlight a specific theme based on current trends. The 2017 Sport Beyond Borders award recognizes those who challenge discrimination in sport or use sport as a means for greater social inclusion in society in general.

The COC recognizes You Can Play as a leader in Canada. The organization is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes and coaches on and off the field of play. Since its partnership with the COC in December 2014, You Can Play’s commitment for inclusion in sport through its various initiatives has had a positive impact, not only on athletes in Canada’s sport system but also on students through the Canadian Olympic School Program and the workplace through the promotion of an improved and more inclusive corporate culture.


“The Olympic Rings represent the opportunity to make a difference in communities and in society through sport. You Can Play has been that difference and the work that they have been able to accomplish for our athletes, coaches and staff in a short period of time is beyond remarkable. The COC is very proud to award the Sport Beyond Borders trophy to You Can Play, and we pledge to continue to work with the IOC to advance equality issues and solutions.”

— Chris Overholt, CEO & Secretary General, Canadian Olympic Committee

“You Can Play is so proud to be selected for the Sport Beyond Borders award and of our partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee. The COC has clearly demonstrated a commitment to promoting safety and inclusion in sport at all levels, and we are profoundly grateful for their ongoing support. You Can Play looks forward to further supporting the COC and its athletes in the future as we work towards a level playing field for all in sport.”

— Brian Kitts, President and Co-Founder, You Can Play

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Statement on NHL Draft Being Awarded to Dallas

Statement On the NHL Draft Being Awarded to Dallas

We would encourage our partners at the NHL to carefully consider the message sent to fans – all fans – by holding the 2018 NHL Draft celebration in a state that has chosen to write discrimination into law.  Hosting events like the draft is a privilege.  We believe events like this should be held in states, cities and venues where all fans, athletes and their families feel welcome.

Awarding events like a draft, all-star game or major championship game, by any league or sports organization, is a business reward and a substantial partnership.  This time, the draft sends a message that the partnership being built with Texas, and the business of sport, is more important than the individual dignity of fans and athletes.

Finally, it’s disappointing that an event meant to celebrate the start of young careers will be mentioned in the same conversation as the damning statistics about the effect of discrimination and bullying on the youth of Texas.  Should Dallas host the draft, we look forward to working with the NHL to lift up all athletes, coaches and fans – not just the ones some Texas politicians think matter.

We truly believe that Hockey is for Everyone and the NHL has a unique opportunity to build on its leadership in supporting LGBTQ athletes and fans.

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U.S. Soccer Partners With You Can Play

CHICAGO (May 26, 2017) – In recognition of LGBTQ Pride month in June, U.S. Soccer will activate a number initiatives in partnership with the You Can Play Project, along with the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association and the Women’s National Team Players Association. The You Can Play Project is an organization dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, coaches, and fans without regard for sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

As the highlight, the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams will wear pride-inspired rainbow numbers during the June friendlies. The MNT will debut the look for the World Cup Qualifying tune-up against Venezuela on June 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The WNT will wear the kits in away friendlies against Sweden on June 8, and Norway three days later.

One set of game-issued jerseys from each team will be available in an online charity auction. In addition, fans will have the opportunity to purchase customized jerseys with the rainbow numbers through

A special “One Nation. One Team.” hat with rainbow lettering will be on sale. Proceeds from all three opportunities will be donated to the You Can Play Project.

The Federation will also produce a public service video featuring members of both senior National Teams expressing acceptance and inclusion of athletes from all backgrounds.

As a long-time supporter of the LGBTQ community, in 2016 U.S. Soccer promoted the hashtag #OneNation in support of the victims of the Pulse Night Club shooting. U.S. MNT captain Michael Bradley wore a special rainbow armband with the One Nation inscription, and auctioned off the armband and his jersey.

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You Can Play Seeks Applicants for Executive Director

Mission: To ensure the equality, respect, inclusion and safety of all in sports, including LGBTQ athletes, coaches and fans.

You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete – judged on their skills, work ethic and competitive spirit without regard to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. If you can play, you can play.


You Can Play was founded in 2012 by Patrick Burke of the NHL, Brian Kitts, a sports and entertainment marketing executive, and Glenn Witman of GForce Sports. Brendan Burke, Patrick’s brother and son of Brian Burke, a longtime NHL team executive (currently President of Hockey Operations, Calgary Flames), made international headlines when he came out in 2009 highlighting what the locker room can be like for young LGBTQ athletes. Brian Burke made his own headlines with his unequivocal and unconditional love and support for Brendan. A few months after he came out, Brendan was lost in a car accident. You Can Play was founded in Brendan Burke’s honor to provide a means for athletes, coaches and fans to stand up and create an atmosphere of inclusion everywhere in sports.

Incorporated in Denver Colorado, You Can Play is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with programming in the United States and Canada.


The Executive Director is the key management leader for the organization. The Executive Director has ultimate responsibility for the development and operation of the organization by working with You Can Play staff to implement the programs, priorities and strategies identified by the Board of Directors and execute on You Can Play’s mission. The Executive Director will be responsible for operational leadership, fundraising, organization and program development, public relations, management of staff, community engagement and partnerships. The Executive Director reports directly to the Board of Directors.

Operational Leadership
The Executive Director will have responsibility for providing organizational management, leadership and fiscal oversight with regard to the overall strategic direction of the organization. Responsibilities will include:

  • Implementation of You Can Play’s programs that further progress the aims and mission of You Can Play
  • Manage and supervise the day to day operations of the organization
  • Develop and manage the organization’s budget, including forecasting program expenses, forecasting revenues and managing expenses to maintain a balanced budget and cashflow
  • Direct and promote the development of all staff members, including training
  • Interview, hire, supervise and retain all staff and conduct annual and semi-annual evaluations
  • Maintain official records and documents and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations
  • Maintain a current working knowledge of significant developments in the LGBTQ sports arena
  • Collaborate with and carry out the directives of the Board of Directors
  • Meet with the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors regularly to provide updates on efforts, accomplishments and status of initiatives

The Executive Director will have responsibility for creating effective fundraising campaigns as well as building and maintaining donor relationships. Responsibilities will include:

  • Establish development streams to ensure financial stability, including from major donors, recurring donors, online, events, corporate donors, grants and foundations
  • Develop a donor stewardship program
  • Manage grant awards in compliance with grant provisions
  • Prepare an annual fundraising plan to be incorporated into budget planning, including events and activities
  • Maintain regular communication with key donors and partners
  • Provide leadership and direction to staff, consultants and agents

Organizational and Program Development
The Executive Director will have responsibility for establishing and continuing to develop an effective organizational structure and creating and implementing the programs necessary to advance You Can Play’s mission. Responsibilities will include:

  • Work with the Board of Directors to be consistent with the strategic direction of the organization and to maintain an effective organizational structure that supports the mission of You Can Play
  • Develop and implement broad public education programs and outreach activities designed to educate and engage stakeholders, donors and the general public
  • Monitor all programming efforts to ensure timeliness and relevance of content to the mission of You Can Play and make adjustments to ensure effectiveness

Community Engagement and Partnerships
The Executive Director will have responsibility for creating effective collaborative partnerships with organizations that share and/or support the mission of You Can Play, including but not limited to, sports leagues, collegiate and high school conferences, associations, professional and amateur teams, sports committees and/or federations and supportive corporations and businesses. Responsibilities will include:

  • Identify and create opportunities to establish evergreen support of equality in sports
  • Provide leadership and direction to staff
  • Work with director of regional boards of volunteers to ensure effective organization and efforts

Public Relations
The Executive Director will have responsibility for marketing, public relations and communications for the organization. Responsibilities will include:

  • Work with public relations and communications manager to promote the mission, goals and achievements of You Can Play
  • Develop and maintain a program of regular communications
  • Act as primary media spokesperson for the organization when feasible
  • Monitor LGBTQ sports related news
  • Represent the organization at various public events wherever possible or engage with staff and the Board of Directors to ensure maximum visibility and impact of invitations to the organization
  • Provide leadership and direction to staff


  • 5-10 years of experience in senior positions in the non-profit sector or a corporate responsibility role
  • Proven history of effective leadership and people management
  • Extensive experience in fundraising and development
  • Fiscal management, forecasting and budgeting
  • Strategic planning and program development; preferably in the non-profit sector
  • Experience with social media campaigns relating to donor engagement and brand awareness
  • Communications strategies; preferably in the non-profit sector
  • Strong ability in dealing with media and comfortable working in the public eye
  • Experience in the supervising of staff


The Executive Director will be able to work from a virtual office. However, the position will require the Executive Director to travel throughout the United States and Canada. This is a contract position which will also involve working during some evenings and weekends. Compensation package, including performance bonus, begins at $90,000 and is commensurate with experience.


Please submit your application, including cover letter, resume and references to David Palumbo at no later than April 30, 2017.

“It’s time to change the way the world thinks about athletes – both straight and gay. Talent, work ethic, and character are all that matters when evaluating a player. It’s time for straight allies to show their character by enabling LGBT athletes to show their talents without fear. If you can play, You Can Play.” – Patrick Burke

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Patrick Burke Leaves You Can Play; Brian Kitts Assumes Role as President

Patrick Burke Leaves You Can Play as Advocacy Group Hits Milestone; Brian Kitts Assumes President’s Role with Reaffirmed Commitment to LGBTQ Inclusion in Sports

The You Can Play Project today announced that co-founder and president Patrick Burke has retired from the organization that promotes LGBTQ inclusion in sports.

“You Can Play has never been stronger and our message has never been more important,” said Burke. “I will always be incredibly proud of the work we have done in five amazing years. We built an organization that celebrated and honored the ideals that my brother stood for and we’ve made a lasting mark on the sports world. I look forward to watching how the You Can Play Project and message of inclusion and respect continue that legacy moving forward.”

Brian Kitts will assume the role of president of You Can Play.  Kitts, one of the organization’s co-founders, is a Denver-based entertainment marketing executive and professor of sports marketing at the University of Denver.

“Patrick, and his entire family, will continue to inspire a movement that values all athletes and fans for their passion, talent and commitment to sport without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity,” Kitts said.  “The five-year anniversary of You Can Play is a good time to thank Patrick for his necessary and vocal opposition to homophobia.  And, this is the right time to reaffirm You Can Play’s unconditional commitment to including all athletes and fans, including our LGBTQ family, teammates and friends.”

You Can Play was founded, in part, to honor the legacy of Burke’s brother, Brendan, who passed away shortly after becoming one of the first to come out as gay in college sports.  The group will rededicate itself to its mission of making locker rooms and sports venues safe and free from casual homophobia.
“Burkie has really become a role model for those who want to address inequality in sports,” said You Can Play’s third co-founder, Glenn Witman, of Patrick Burke.  “His no-nonsense approach has been what athletes need to focus attention on homophobic language.”

You Can Play announced that a search soon will begin for an executive director to lead daily operations of the organization.  You Can Play currently does educational work at the college level and has numerous relationships with professional teams including the Canadian Football League, Canadian Olympic Committee, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and others.

In its first five years, You Can Play was recognized for a number of milestones including being the first LGBTQ sports advocacy group to have players from all teams in a pro league (NHL) speak on behalf of LGBTQ athletes, the first LGBTQ sports advocacy group to address the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the first LGBTQ advocacy group to partner with a national Olympic committee (Canada).


About the You Can Play Project

You Can Play works to ensure safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBTQ athletes, coaches and fans. You Can Play believes sports teams should focus on the athlete’s skills, work ethic, and competitive spirit, not their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. More information about You Can Play can be found at

Media Contacts:

Seth McNew
Public Relations Manager, You Can Play