The Peoria Rivermen are the second AHL team after the Toronto Marlies to sign the You Can Play pledge to stamp out homophobia, and have released a PSA for the organization.
Blues goaltender Brian Elliott participated in a You Can Play PSA earlier this year, and now the Blues' AHL team is following his example. You Can Play, a project founded by Patrick Burke in memory of his brother Brendan, aims to make sports locker rooms a more accepting place for LGBT athletes by stating simply, "If you can play, you can play."
The Rivermen's PSA was publicly released today. Along with it, the team also has signed a pledge to hang in their arena that states that the club will "support all of our coaches, teammates, and fans, gay or straight." Craig Brownstein was nice enough to e-mail me the information regarding the team's work with YCP, and the PSA is outstanding:
From the press release:
Said goaltender Mike McKenna, "The You Can Play Project is something I have fully supported since its inception. Hockey is generally known as a 'macho' sport, but I think it is very important for people to understand that the bulk of our players are also compassionate people that believe in the virtues of equality and respect. This video is a testament to that common belief shared in our locker room. When I asked my teammates if they would be willing to do a video for You Can Play, there was an overwhelmingly positive response."
The players are (in order of appearance) Chris Bruton, Ian Cole, Taylor Chorney, Jake Allen, Mark Cundari, Phil McRae, Derek Nesbitt, Mike McKenna, Jaden Schwartz, TJ Hensick, Scott Ford, and Adam Cracknell. The players state unequivocally that "racist, sexist, and homophobic language have no place in our arena." This is consistent with You Can Play’s mission to change the culture of "casual homophobia" that often exists in locker rooms and seating areas.
When asked about changing the language in the arena, McKenna responded, "I believe the You Can Play has helped many people re-evaluate how they view the LGBT community. By showing that big, tough, manly athletes - a group with a history of being vocally homophobic - are actively taking a stand against slurs and degrading language, it provides a very strong message: that players should be judged by their performance rather than who they are attracted to."
As part of the initiative, the Rivermen will be signing a printed version of the Pledge, which will be hung in the arena to remind the players of their commitment. "This type of statement by the Rivermen is invaluable, and we are truly grateful for their participation," said You Can Play president Patrick Burke. "Now gay hockey players, coaches, and fans know that there is another American Hockey League organization that is fully committed to giving them a fair opportunity to be a part of the Rivermen community. It shows tremendous leadership on the part of the Blues and Rivermen management, coaches, and players to work to support an often ignored community in the sports world."
McKenna echoed that sentiment, stating "I have full confidence that if one of our players came out as gay or bisexual, there would be nothing but support within the locker room. We practice, train, play, and bleed together as a family: something a person's sexual orientation has no effect on."