All of us at You Can Play believe discrimination against LGBT citizens anywhere in our world is an unacceptable affront to human decency.
Discrimination and harassment of those perceived as different is shameful and equal parts of fear, lack of compassion, political pandering and mankind’s history-spanning willingness to achieve personal gain by at the expense of the minorities among us.
With much of the world, we are disgusted and saddened that one of history’s great powers will host the 2014 Olympic games under clouds of uncertainty and doubt. Uncertainty over the near future of Russia’s LGBT citizens, and doubt that the Russian government much cares what the rest of the world thinks.
You Can Play has chosen sport as the medium through which we work to make things better for anyone who appreciates the talent, heart and skill of an athlete. It’s a medium generally free from overt politics. And, while we’ve been asked to join the political fights for marriage, workplace and other important measures of equality – which we firmly respect and support – we believe our best efforts are forming alliances between athletes and fans who will work to promote respect through the games we love.
Now, the Olympic games have taken on political overtones due to a host government’s increasingly harsh treatment of the very citizens You Can Play primarily was formed to lift up. The qualifiers of sexual orientation and gender identity are again being used to disqualify human spirit.
We’ve been vocal about our beliefs that boycotting the 2014 Olympics in Sochi would be a mistake. Attending, playing, and winning the Games all send a message about equality and spirit that outshine any temporary economic or political message. We’re also attuned to the power of symbolism and we support the efforts of those around the world who are sending their own messages of support for equality. Frankly, even if the governments disrespect these basic rights, it’s worth letting them know that the world is watching. And, let’s be clear, intolerance and inequality may be highlighted now in Russia, but what happens to LGBT communities in Syria, Uganda and dozens of other countries around the globe is horrifying. And, unfortunately, we acknowledge that in our own communities at home there is much work to be done.
Still, we have the hope and faith that history will award medals to openly gay winners as it has previously shunned competitors from different races and religions. One game at a time, one athlete at a time, we can make a difference, and, sport has a chance to provide a sense of fairness and order in the fight for equality. We’re honored to support our teammates, and our countries’ athletes, as they work toward their Olympic goals. And, we’re hopeful that the small efforts we make let others know that there is a legion of support for athletes and fans in countries where oppression rules. With a countdown to the start of the Games is the knowledge that dozens of athletes who have appeared in You Can Play videos are part of the Olympic movement – athletes from Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States to name a few.
In addition to our video and educational work promoting equality, we’ll offer symbolic support. Our social media will reflect a sense that universal equality is the ultimate goal – and that, in any language, “You Can Play” means one thing – equality for all. We’ll sell, for a limited time, merchandise that features a Russian language version of our logo – proceeds of which will be provided to organizations in Russia working for equality through www.RussiaFreedomFund.org.
Finally, we’ll be there in spirit, each of us with our own Olympic experience and memories. Brian, Glenn and Wade are grateful to have spent time at the US Olympic headquarters in October – talking about diversity – while athletes we may one day know as gay Olympic champions trained just down the hall. We’ll be proud of Patrick’s dad, Brian, as he represents Team USA at the world’s most inclusive rink. We’ll root for every man or woman in the Games who has acknowledged their support for humanitarian and LGBT causes, knowing that their participation in a You Can Play video is, in some countries, a crime. And, with every win and loss, with a sense of pride in our chests, and a lump in our collective throat, we’ll know that kids in Sochi, Rio de Janeiro, Pyeongchang and Tokyo are competing in games, with teammates, and a future that increasingly recognize heart, talent and skill.