• The Story of You Can Play

    6m 07s

    The You Can Play anti-homophobia in sport campaign started in the US and came to Australia in 2013. The story of You Can Play is an interesting and powerful story. You Can Play is now supported by many sporting stars and organisations nationally and internationally.

If you can play—

You can play.

The You Can Play campaign was officially unveiled at a landmark event in Australia sporting history, an event where five of the top heads of professional sports in Australia: cricket, football, Australian Rules, Rugby League, and Rugby Union came together to sign an inclusion framework policy. This represented a commitment to create a positive environment for everyone in sport, regardless of sexual orientation. 

The seeds for You Can Play in Australia had been planted but to trace the roots of You Can Play, we have to go back to November of 2009 in Miami, Florida. 

Patrick: My brother Brendan was the first person associated with the National Hockey League who ever came out as openly gay. At the time he came out, he was the student manager for a collegiate hockey team and decided to come out very publicly on an ESPN article for their website. The reason it was big news is because my family is big in the hockey industry. My father Brian is a long time NHL executive, he won the championship trophy, the Stanley Cup, in 2006. People in the hockey world, they know who Brian Burke is. He’s stereotypically masculine, he hunts, he fights, he chews tobacco, all that stuff, he drives a pickup truck. He’s old school tough, he’s a stereotypical man’s man so when Brennan came out, it was a big deal for the hockey world. All of a sudden, people were having a conversation that wasn’t normally happening. 

Is professional hockey ready for an openly gay whatever it be, scout, executive, manager, player? 

He is the son of a very, very powerful and influential person in the NHL. Do you think this can make the difference? 

--A gay athlete inside the culture of the locker room. 

He says. “I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

--Would be the first openly gay player in the National Football League.

--Has come out today as the first openly gay player in Men’s Division I athletics. 

On the 5th of February 2010, driving to a hockey game, tragedy struck. Brendan’s car went off the road in bad weather. Brendan and his friend Mark Rady, who was also in the car, were killed in the accident. 

Patrick: It was unimaginable, we weren’t prepared for it, everything was good. He was out, he was himself and it’s something that we kind of live with and deal with every day.

If you can skate—

--you can skate. 

If you can shoot—

--you can shoot.

Patrick: The faceoff was our original launch video, it launched in 2012 and it featured 10 NHL superstars, some of the biggest names in ice hockey in one single video. Our campaign had more professional athletes speak out for LGBT inclusion than all other campaigns combined, in one video.

If you can play—

--you can play. 

If you can play—

--you can play. 

If you can play—

--you can play. 

Peter: We kind of crossed the faceoff, which was the video that kick started the campaign in the U.S., You Can Play in the U.S. We contacted Patrick Burke over in the U.S. and he was more than happy, they were more than happy to cooperate in terms of an Australian version of You Can Play. 

If you can run—

--you can run.

If you can kick—

--you can kick. 

If you can score—

--you can score. 

Whether a person is gay or straight—

--shouldn’t matter in sport. 

Ability, attitude—

--and effort is what counts. 

If you can play—

--you can play. 

If you can play—

--you can play. 

If you can play—

--you can play. 

The launch of the You Can Play campaign in Australia at the Inclusion Policy Framework signing put the issue of homophobia in sport firmly on the public agenda. 

Peter: We had a huge amount of publicity from the launch and we wanted to then take it more to a grassroots and to elevate that level of discussion in the future. 

The You Can Play Forum featured players both past and present as well as a studio audience, sports administrators, coaches, and an expert panel.

Gus: To start the movement to have those conversations, any kind of action is better than none. 

Andrew: We want to make sure people feel welcome to participate in sport regardless of sexuality. 

Nadine: It’s the message about the talent you have on the field, whether you’re an elite athlete or you’re playing social netball, it's about you can play. It doesn’t really matter about who you are, you can play, you can be made to feel safe. 

Craig: Yeah I think we come from a place which was nowhere near as good as we are now, we’re in a good place now and the fact that people realize it and it’s in the public dialogue, but there’s still obviously a long way to go. 

Peter: I don’t think there’s one thing in particular standing—it's the collective. Since the launch of You Can Play, we’ve consistently had stories of local clubs and associations, for example, saying, “Yes, we’re really grateful, we’re using these resources in our education, using these resources, the videos, the templates for policy in our clubs and associations.” I hear that throughout the year, I mean, that continues throughout the year because of the raised level of awareness and to homophobia. So we want to see more of that and we want to see examples of how that’s happening at the local level.

The fight to eliminate homophobia from sport continues. And in the words of Brian Burke, “I hope the day comes, and soon, when this is not a story.”