An article I came across while writing my previous post involves three things that I’m pretty cool about: Sports, anything Canadian, and LGBT support. It was announced last week that the Canadian Football League — you know, the league that plays 3-down football on a 110-yard field — have partnered with You Can Play to launch a clothing line. So, how does the line look? Well, here’s one item that’s on sale:
So, you’re saying that’s just a hat? You’re also saying it doesn’t look like much? Well, look at the three words on the front panel: You. Can. Play. As in “You Can Play.” That’s the logo and name of an organization whose mission is to promote environments in organized sports where participants are judged by their skills, work ethic, and spirit regardless of their sexual orientation. You Can Play launched in 2012, and one of its co-founders is Patrick Burke, the son of longtime National Hockey League executive Brian Burke and brother of the late Brendan Burke. Before his death in 2010, Brendan Burke, who came out publicly one year earlier, was known for his efforts to combat homophobia in hockey through his role as student manager of Miami University’s hockey team (the team gave him warm support in his coming out, as did his brother and father). You Can Play was established in Brendan’s memory and continues his efforts.
Over the years, You Can Play has gained support from several organizations and entities (including, if you recall in this post from January, Pride Tape hockey gear). They have also partnered with several sports leagues on the major or minor levels, including the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer as well as the Canadian Football League. In 2014, the CFL and its players association partnered with You Can Play on a system where league’s players, coaches, and staff can anonymously receive support, training, counseling, or other resources in order to combat casual homophobia within the locker room. A nice thing about You Can Play that I learned for this post is that, according to Patrick Burke, they promote educating players and staff about issues of inclusion and acceptance rather than punishing or vilifying them for any off-color remarks or behavior. In other words, it’s better to spare the rod and educate with kindness.
But back to the clothing line: It’s good when any worthwhile organization gets their word out any way they can, hence the You Can Play Collection the CFL has put out. Polo shirts and tee-shirts (men’s and women’s) are available through the CFLShop.ca website, along with key chains, socks, and hats like the one shown above. The headgear is available not only in the CFL standard colors but also the logos and colors of each of the league’s 9 teams. How does You Can Play benefit from the sale of the collection? Well, in addition to obviously getting the word out about the organization, 25% of proceeds from the each You Can Play Collection item sold directly funds You Can Play’s outreach efforts across Canada.
This is a great move by the CFL and You Can Play. I can’t say for sure if it will happen, but just as some other leagues have days where teams wear special gear to promote a cause (Major League Baseball has their players wear pink and blue to promote cancer screening for both women and men), perhaps the CFL will have a “You Can Play” weekend to promote the organization and its partnership. Such an effort can really get the word about about You Can Play’s efforts. But between now and then, you can get a glimpse of the You Can Play Collection in action by virtue of a couple of photos (among the many found here) from the recent CFL training camps, including the flex cap worn by Ottawa Redblacks player Chris Milo…
… and the socks worn by Kyries Hebert of the Montreal Alouettes…
And while you’re at it, check out the one-minute video from 2012 that formally introduced You Can Play to the world, featuring several notable pro hockey players as well as Brian and Patrick Burke.