Denver, Colorado – You Can Play celebrated its third anniversary today by announcing the addition of two highly regarded staff members and a major grant award to assist in the organization’s fight against homophobia in sports. Anna Aagenes and Jillian Svensson will join You Can Play bringing expertise in sports, non-profit organization and LGBT advocacy. Aagenes will serve as vice president for program development and community relations, working on issues management and community outreach. She most recently served as deputy chief of staff to Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims. A collegiate cross country and track and field athlete, Aagenes is a founder and former executive director of GO! Athletes, an organization dedicated to supporting LGBT athletes at the college level. She will be based in Philadelphia.
Svensson will join You Can Play as vice president for operations and development. A former fundraising executive with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Svensson will manage development and operations including international, volunteer and funding support. Svensson also managed community relations for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and will be based in Toronto. Aagenes and Svensson join executive director Wade Davis on You Can Play’s leadership team just as the New York-based Arcus Foundation has provided a $100,000 grant to continue work already underway in discussing homophobia in sports. The grant will fund continued efforts with professional leagues, amateur sports and college athletics.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy to have Anna Aagenes and Jillian Svensson join the You Can Play family,” said Davis. “Both women are proven leaders within the LGBT sports movement and bring an insightful and nuanced understanding of how to truly do transformative work that shifts culture and evolves consciousness.” “You Can Play has long believed that sexism and homophobia are deeply linked,” Davis continued. “However, with an all-male staff, You Can Play often felt unqualified to speak out on issues pertaining to women’s rights in sports. With the addition of Jillian and Anna, You Can Play will be able to show up as authentic in spaces that predominantly effect female athletes, coaches, and fans. Our staff could not be more excited to begin to expand our intersectional work as we continue to speak out on how sexism informs homophobia.”
“I am thrilled to join the You Can Play team and work on a cause I am deeply passionate about and committed to,” said Aagenes. “Not only am I excited to help strengthen and expand the great work being done by You Can Play and partner with fellow advocates and organizations, I am personally committed to inclusion initiatives for female athletes.”
“Over the last three years, You Can Play has made tremendous progress in changing the conversation and landscape of inclusion for LGBT athletes in sports,” said Svensson. “I’m excited to join the You Can Play team to continue this groundbreaking work of creating equality for all athletes and a culture of inclusion in sports.”
You Can Play looks forward to the addition of Aagenes and Svensson, and to using the Arcus Foundation grant to continue promoting inclusion in the sports world.
You Can Play reaches its third year milestone with a number of landmarks:
• You Can Play and its affiliated schools and leagues have released an average of one video each week supporting LGBT equality in sports for the entire time You Can Play has been operating
• You Can Play has inspired more than 140 videos from professional teams, colleges, high schools, and other organizations – including the Empire 8 Athletic Conference, every team in the North Atlantic Conference (NAC), and every team in the NHL has had a player support You Can Play, showing support for LGBT athletes, team staff, coaches and fans.
• You Can Play has been represented in equality-themed videos by players from every major professional sports league in the US and Canada
• You Can Play has teamed in LGBT equality advocacy with some of the biggest leagues and players associations in sports including the National Hockey League, National Football League, Canadian Football League, Major League Soccer, American Hockey League, Canadian Women’s Hockey League, and World Wrestling Entertainment
• You Can Play became the first LGBT sports advocacy group to address the United Nations Human Rights Council