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Gay or straight, ‘You Can Play’ project provides platform for Stanford athletes

By Crystal Grover | 15 Apr 2014

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The “You Can Play” campaign encourages equality for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation. Many collegiate and professional teams have recorded videos in support of the program and pledging their loyalty to upholding its message. These videos are then placed on the organization’s website in a visual display of support.

Stanford University shot their video sharing the projects message during the 2012 — 2013 academic year, after women’s basketball player Toni Kokenis and her group, Stanford Athletes and Allies Together (StAAT), came up with a script and presented it to the athletic department.

Kokenis came up with the idea after Stanford was ranked one of the top ten most LGBT athlete friendly colleges in the nation. She decided to use it as a platform to further Stanford athletics’ inclusiveness efforts.

With the school’s permission and support, Kokenis organized the video shoot, which included members from all aspects of Stanford Athletics. After the video’s release last June, it has been viewed more than 22,000 times on the athletic department’s YouTube channel.

Brendan Burke’s family formed the You Can Play project after he was killed in a car accident while in college. Burke had been a student manager for the Miami University hockey team and had recently come out to them before his death. San Jose Sharks center Tommy Wingels had played for Miami while Burke was there and was asked to join the organization’s board and help promote its message.

Despite the progress with LGBT athletes and acceptance, both Wingels and Kokenis agree there is more to be done.

Just this month, University of Massachusetts men’s basketball player Derrick Gordon came out, according to ESPN. Last year, NBA player and Stanford alum Jason Collins came out, boosting a national conversation about LGBT acceptance in professional sports.

Homepage image courtesy of Stanford University’s ‘You Can Play’ video

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