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Fans cheer after Martin Hanzal of the Phoenix Coyotes scores an empty-net goal against the Detroit Red Wings in Glendale, Ariz., on April 4.
Fans cheer after Martin Hanzal of the Phoenix Coyotes scores an empty-net goal against the Detroit Red Wings in Glendale, Ariz., on April 4. Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The National Hockey League and its players union launched an initiative today that it hopes will stamp out homophobia from the game.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman tells our Newscast unit that the partnership with You Can Play is intended to send a message that everyone is welcome in the NHL as a player or a fan.
"This is really about celebrating diversity, whether or not it's your national origin, the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, and making you feel comfortable that whoever you are you can have a place you can play," Bettman said.
The program will include education initiatives and training for teams, players, media and fans.
"You Can Play was founded by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke last month in memory of Brendan Burke, his brother and the son of Brian Burke," the AP reports. "Brendan Burke revealed he was gay to his family in 2007. He died in a car accident in 2010."
CNN reports that the NHL is part of a greater movement in sports:
"In its 2011 contract with players, the NFL also banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. But the league ran into criticism from New York's attorney general, among others, in February after NFL prospects said that they had been asked questions about their sexual orientation.
"In March, Major League Soccer also unveiled an initiative urging players to reject all forms of discrimination."
Still, The New York Times reports that no athlete for a major professional tem has come out as gay.
"It's the last closet in America and one of most important ones," Brian Ellner, a board member for Athlete Ally, an organization that supports gay athletes, told the Times.
Bettman said that NHL players have welcomed the initiative and dozens of them have signed up to film public service announcements welcoming diversity.