As Toronto prepares to host one of the largest LGBTQ celebrations in the world, Toronto’s professional sports teams and the Canadian Olympic Committee are uniting behind the You Can Play Project. Together, the organizations have issued a joint statement of support for You Can Play and the ideals of LGBT inclusion in sport. “Sport has an unmatched ability to bring people together with joy and passion. In commemoration of World Pride 2014, we are proud to join the You Can Play Project in embracing and celebrating all of our LGBT athletes, coaches, staff, and fans. We strongly believe that discrimination of any kind has no place in sports, and we are united in support of the ideals embodied in the statement: ‘If you can play, You Can Play.”
Wade Davis, executive director of You Can Play, praised the organizations involved, stating, “This unparalleled support from the Canadian sports world is touching and inspiring. So many young LGBTQ people across Canada will now know that they are welcome in the sports world. We are so grateful to all the organizations that have joined us to send a message of hope and love to young people everywhere.”
The organizations participating are the Canadian Olympic Committee, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and Toronto FC), the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball, and the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Each team will send players or staff representatives to march in the World Pride Parade on Sunday, June 29th. Organizers expect this to be the largest LGBTQ gathering of its kind in Canadian history. The representatives include: More than 20 Canadian Olympians; Troy Bodie of the Maple Leafs; Jeremy Hall and Andrew Wiedeman of Toronto FC; and Meagan Aarts, Holly Carrie-Mattimoe, Martine Garland, Alora Keers, Jenelle Kohanchuk, Carolyn Prevost, Natalie Spooner, and Jennifer Wakefield of the Furies. The Argonauts are represented by multiple members of the 2014 Argos Cheerleaders. Staff members from each organization will also be in attendance. Due to a scheduling conflict the Toronto Blue Jays were unable to participate. However, they remain the only team in Major League Baseball to utilize You Can Play as an LGBT resource for their players.
Said Natalie Spooner, member of the Toronto Furies and Sochi 2014 Canadian Olympic gold medalist, “I am excited to represent the Toronto Furies and Olympians this Sunday in World Pride. I sincerely believe in the values expressed by the You Can Play Project and hope that young LGBT athletes everywhere know that they are welcome and embraced in the world of women’s hockey.”
This will mark the first time that athletes from multiple professional and national teams have marched together in a Pride Parade, and will also feature the highest number of prominent athletes to march in Pride. Davis and You Can Play president Patrick Burke and will march on behalf of You Can Play.