Brotherhood urges respect on and off ice
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2012 23:10
Over the past year and a half, through hours of practice and travel for games, the Miami University men’s hockey team has stood united behind more than just their love for the game. The team has been spreading the message that athletes should be judged by how well they play their sport, rather than irrelevant factors such as race or sexual orientation.
Oct. 15, the You Can Play campaign, a project supporting respect and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes, released a video featuring Miami hockey players as they talked about openly gay student manager, Brendan Burke, who was killed in a car accident in 2010.
According to Senior Curtis McKenzie, Burke’s death spurred the inception of the You Can Play campaign by Brendan’s father Brian Burke and brother Patrick Burke. The video is a tribute to the legacy Burke left on the team and its message is very simple: “If you can play, then you can play.”
Head Coach Rico Blasi said Burke’s attitude was one to admire.
“One of the things Brendan always talked about was that it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, or black, or green; if you can do a certain job it shouldn’t matter.” Blasi said. “He was genuine, compassionate and just himself. He didn’t try to hide anything or be somebody that he wasn’t. Just that alone is a great message for everybody.”
Blasi said that although the You Can Play campaign got its start in hockey, due to the Burke family’s strong ties to the sport, the message is directed at athletic teams of all types, and further—at society.
“We’re all in this together – who are we to judge?” Blasi said. “If everyone could just learn a little of this [message], and be aware of it, I think our society would be better.”
Blasi said he is deeply upset that gay slurs, fliers and other displays of insensitivity continue to be evident on Miami’s campus.
Still, Blasi and the team are focused on all of the positive progress that has been made through the project so far, and the hope is that any negative feedback can be changed.
According to McKenzie, the project has grown rapidly since its inception, reaching the NHL and college sports teams of all types across the country.
“So far it’s been a great success, but its still developing, I think, as well,” McKenzie said.
Senior Brian Mattison said he feels the campaign is a step in the right direction. “I think that the campaign will bring sports teams closer to their teammates. In terms of Miami’s campus, I think it can have a big influence on helping people feel more comfortable expressing their sexual orientation.”
More videos and information about the You Can Play campaign can be found online at youcanplayproject.org. Anyone, and any team, can get involved by taking the online pledge to promote equality and respect in sports.
In regards to getting more athletic teams and students at Miami on board, Blasi said it is not for him to decide.
“If they want to do it because they feel strongly about it then I would encourage them to do it,” he said. “Everybody has to do things for themselves, we’re just trying to deliver the message.”