You Can Play - 2013 In Review

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The Year In Review – 2013

It’s been a great year for You Can Play and the efforts of those dedicated to ensuring equality and respect in sports.  A look at 2013 includes thank yous to those who’ve helped us, events that showed progress and a sense that momentum is building in support of LGBT athletes and fans.  Our look at 2013 isn’t a countdown.  It’s in no particular order.  But, it’s a good reminder that a team – especially one with thousands of voices – can accomplish some cool things.  Here are the stories that most affected You Can Play in 2013.

Pro Athletes Becomes Advocates

The biggest story of 2013 for You Can Play is that professional athletes and professional leagues became such vocal advocates. Athletes at all levels and leagues in many sports stepped up for LGBT causes in ways they never had. You Can Play built on a successful first six months – Patrick Burke negotiated official You Can Play partnerships with the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and their players associations. It’s the first time professional leagues had signed high-profile agreements dedicated to promoting inclusion and diversity in their leagues.

It’s the year the American Hockey League and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League became partners with You Can Play in support for LGBT athletes and fans in smaller markets.  It’s the year professional athletes went on camera for You Can Play in support of LGBT athletes and for their fans in the National Lacrosse League, Major League Lacrosse, the National Women’s Soccer League and the Ontario Fast Pitch Softball Association. It’s the year the NBA and MLS both saw players come out, and the NWSL saw one of its stars marry her partner. It’s the year the President of the United States sent gay and lesbian tennis, hockey and skating legends as athletes/diplomats to an anti-gay Russian Olympic host.

And, it’s a year that, following some clumsy Super Bowl Eve anti-gay sentiment from a San Francisco 49ers player, the NFL helped inaugurate You Can Play’s High Five Initiative. 2013 is the year the most-watched You Can Play athlete video of the year showed up unannounced – a combined effort from the Bay Area All-Stars featuring players from the Golden State Warriors, Oakland A’s, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, San Francisco Giants, San Jose Earthquakes, and the San Jose Sharks (the Sharks’ farm team, the San Francisco Bulls, filmed separately). It was an amazing look at the ease with which players from every major league in North American sports would step in front of a camera to support LGBT athletes by saying, “if you can play, you can play.”

The #1 You Can Play Video of the Year Is By the Biggest Musicians of 2013

The most-watched You Can Play videos of 2013 surprisingly didn’t come from professional athletes, but instead, from professional sports fans. And, the men in the videos also are some of the most vocal supporters of LGBT issues in the world today.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and FUN. both made videos for You Can Play this year and both acts combined music, a love of sports and advocacy in ways that spread the You Can Play message to completely new audiences. You Can Play had been written about in sports pages and magazines before. But, the FUN. and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis videos got noticed by Rolling Stone, Billboard, VH1, MTV and by rap and pop music bloggers around the world.

Nate, Jack, Andrew, Ben and Ryan are all big sports fans and decent basketball players, baseball players or golfers. They’re also incredibly nice guys who make the fight for LGBT equality part of their careers and part of their lives. Just as they’re cheering for any athlete who can play, we’ll be cheering their continued success. We’d love to see Macklemore & Ryan Lewis win the 2014 Grammy for Best New Artist – they’d be succeeding FUN. as the 2013 winner in that category. FUN’s lead singer, Nate Ruess, is nominated for his duet with P!nk, “Just Give Me a Reason.” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are nominated for six additional Grammys (including for the pro-gay “Same Love”) and any wins would be a nice way to follow their “Thrift Shop” being named the biggest song of 2013 by Billboard.

Thousands of Student-Athletes, Coaches, Staff Show Support as Campuses Take On You Can Play Projects

The most important videos You Can Play posts are the ones from high school, university and college teams. Change happens most quickly at a grassroots level, when friends talk with friends – and teammates. And, when athletic programs recognize the importance of talking openly about issues affecting their LGBT and straight student-athletes, staff and coaches.

2013 saw a huge swell of support from our new You Can Play teammates around North America with videos featuring every NCAA sport, from rec sports programs. Big schools with powerhouse athletic programs and small schools with a couple of teams. Every single video is worth the effort they put into making them and the time we spent watching. Here’s a partial list of videos submitted this year:

Bates College

University of Cincinnati

St. Thomas University

The Ohio State University

Colorado College (Hockey, Basketball, Women’s Soccer)

University of California –Los Angeles

University at Buffalo

University of Vermont

Wheaton College

Grand Valley State University

Amherst College

Stanford University

Ryerson University

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institure (RPI)

University of California -Berkeley

Memorial University of Newfoundland

Louisiana State University Campus Recreation

Dartmouth College

Brown University

Georgetown University

Portland State University Campus Rec

Connecticut College

University of Missouri

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

You Can Play Leads LGBT Issues Talk at the US Olympic Committee

You Can Play was selected to coordinate and lead the LGBT issues session at the US Olympic Committee-hosted Sports Diversity and Inclusion Conference in October. There’s a sense of purpose and pride in the air at any nation’s Olympic training facility, and those elements, along with a sense of urgency, set the tone as the Olympic games head to a disturbingly anti-gay Russian setting.

You Can Play executive director Wade Davis attended, along with co-founders Brian Kitts and Glenn Witman. Brian moderated a feisty panel discussion that included Wade, Outsports co-founder and editor Cyd Zeigler and LGBT marketing expert Heather Torch. There will be disagreements over the practicality of an Olympics boycott, the tactics used to promote women’s sports and how and when LGBT athletes should come out. But, there’s no disagreement that a number of organizations are working hard to promote equality without regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, gender, or race.

You Can Play is grateful to the US Olympic Committee for the chance to work on this special project and to set the stage for discussion of LGBT issues in sports.

You Can Play, Pro Teams Partner for All-Colorado High School Effort

You Can Play and several professional Colorado teams have partnered for a far-reaching program that promotes diversity and inclusion in every Colorado high school team and club. It’s the first time that any state has provided LGBT-inclusive messaging to every single high school team and student activity. In addition to the messaging, the Colorado High School Activities Association is promoting a You Can Play video contest open to all Colorado high schools, teams and clubs.

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog will appear in the first video for the project just after New Year’s. Also participating are the Colorado Mammoth (National Lacrosse League), Colorado Rapids (Major League Soccer), Denver Cutthroats (Central Hockey League), Denver Outlaws (Major League Lacrosse), Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and others.

DU Hockey Wins Colorado’s Biggest LGBT Advocacy Award

Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels seemed a little surprised that “even hockey players” were at One Colorado’s annual awards ceremony in August.  Politicians, funders and LGBT activists were always at the event put on by the state’s largest LGBT rights advocacy group.  But, the hockey players?  Yes, there they were and the University of Denver men’s hockey team was being honored with One Colorado’s big prize – the Ally Award – for the team’s work in supporting LGBT athletes.

The University of Denver men’s hockey team made the first You Can Play video by a college or university team – nine guys who have now been joined by thousands of advocates from around the US and Canada. One Colorado said the team had shattered a stereotype of athles as uncaring about gay or lesbian teammates. You Can Play co-founder Brian Kitts presented the award, saying, “If I ever have to go into a fight, there’s no one I’d rather have behind me than a hockey team – and that includes a fight for equality.”

DU hockey players Sam Brittain, Josiah Didier, Zac Larraza and Larkin Jacobson, along with head coach Jim Montgomery, were on hand to accept the Ally Award. Brittain spoke on behalf of the team and said that a new generation of athletes is more aware of LGBT issues and will work to support gay teammates. When Montgomery asked where the team would put the award, Brittain replied, “In the locker room, of course.”

Ottawa Recognizes Scott Heggart

Looking back at 2013, it’s impossible to not thank the volunteers who donate money, time and thought to the cause of equality for LGBT athletes and fans in sports. We’re grateful for each of our supporters.  Occasionally, one of our team members is recognized for what they’ve done on behalf of LGBT athletes.  One of those volunteers is Ottawa’s Scott Heggart. 

Anyone who’s played sports has heard a coach say, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team,’ as a plea for selfless play and better individual effort. And, in a society that promotes celebrity, swagger and “I/Me” as measures of value, it’s easy to get blown away by a bigmouth with a bigger ego. Until you come across someone who doesn’t ask for credit for work well done, would never say ‘they love me,’ and is kind of embarrassed by a little attention.

Scott Heggart is the second kind of guy. He first came to our attention as a high school hockey player who had come out to his team, family and friends through a year-long series of self-produced, daily videos documenting his thoughts on being a gay athlete. We all know what it feels like to worry about whether your family and friends approve of something you’ve done. But, Scott took a chance on the value of honesty and compassion in letting those who are important to him know what he’s done, and who he is.

Scott has just been named to the Order of Ottawa. It’s the Canadian capital’s annual roster of “amazing people,” according to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. It’s an honor for the CEOs, Canada’s “Guitarist of the Year,” and arts activists on the list, most of whom have dedicated lifetimes to their work. It’s an honor for Scott, who is still working to get through the University of Ottawa and has a lifetime ahead of him. In typical Scott style, he didn’t want anyone to make a fuss, so his dad let us know.

Scott handles much of the You Can Play Twitter account. He does it between work and class. He made one of the first videos for You Can Play. And, he’s been vocal in speaking on behalf of LGBT athletes, both with You Can Play and on his own. You Can Play co-founder Patrick Burke has teamed up to speak with Scott and said, “Scott’s honesty and openness allow athletes of all ages and skill levels to connect with him and learn from him. I don’t know many 19-year-olds willing and able to stand in professional locker rooms and talk about the coming out experience, but Scott has done it repeatedly and effectively. He’s been a tremendous advocate for this cause and we are all very proud of him.”

When an Ottawa city councilor asked for You Can Play to support Scott’s nomination last March, a letter was sent saying, “His own experience as a hockey-loving, gay athlete has let others see that there is support from friends, fellow athletes, a terrific family, and many people he may never meet but still reaches.” It was a small part of a substantial effort behind Scott’s nomination.

It’s an honor to tell the rest of the world know what Scott’s dad and the mayor of Ottawa already knew, Scott’s an ‘amazing person.’ We’re glad to call him a friend, a colleague and an inspiration.