The Canadian Football League and the Canadian Football League Players’ Association today launched a new partnership with the You Can Play Project.
“This is a very important issue facing the sports world today,” said CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon. “And it’s important to our league and our players. Through this partnership we are demonstrating that we fully support openly gay athletes and we will provide the environment and resources necessary to ensure players are welcomed and respected, and evaluated solely on their athletic abilities, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Through this partnership, You Can Play will provide a confidential and anonymous system through which CFL players, coaches and staff can receive support, training, counseling, or other resources as needed.
“We have some of the greatest athletes in the world playing in our league, and their sexual orientation should be of no consequence,” said Scott Flory, CFLPA President and former CFL All-Star. “Whether gay or straight, this partnership will provide support to all CFL players as we continue to remove any barriers or disrespect to openly gay athletes in professional sports.”
“We are honored to partner with the CFL to build a more inclusive culture in the locker rooms, on the field, and in the stands,” said Wade Davis, executive director of You Can Play. “At any level, football is about family. My teammates were my brothers and my friends, and I would have done anything for them. We will work with the CFL and its players to ensure that family atmosphere includes all of our LGBT brothers and sisters.”
The Canadian Football League and its Players’ Association become the third professional sports league in North America to partner with YCP, joining the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer.
“You Can Play is proud to be a partner of the CFL,” said Patrick Burke, president of You Can Play. “We believe talent, character, and work ethic are what matter in the sports world. It is encouraging to see the CFL and its players embrace the same ideals. This is an exciting day for LGBT football fans and players across Canada. It is wonderful that they now know without a doubt that they are welcomed and embraced by the CFL family.”
As part of this partnership, each CFL team has identified an ambassador who will work with their teammates and YCP to provide the necessary support and resources to any player or staff member who requests it. These players will also be involved in their communities to promote equality and respect for all athletes.
CFL ambassadors to You Can Play include:
BC Lions, Marco Ianuzzi
Edmonton Eskimos, Mike Reilly
Calgary Stampeders, Jon Cornish
Saskatchewan Roughriders, Jim Hopson
Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Donovan Alexander
Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Brian Bulcke
Toronto Argonauts, Zander Robinson
Ottawa REDBLACKS, Eric Fraser
Montreal Alouettes, Kyries Hebert
Members of the Argonauts will join the You Can Play float at Sunday’s World Pride parade in Toronto. It marks the second year in a row that the Argos have been representatives in the Parade.
“It’s great to see our players step up for this important issue,” said Cohon. “Through the sports communities collective efforts, we truly hope that this will be a non-issue in the future.”