Saturday, May 21, 2011

Can the NHL be a Pioneer for LGBT Acceptance?

Recently Charles Barkely voiced his extremely positive opinion on gay athletes and homosexuality in locker rooms and it got me thinking.  In spite of Barkely's comments, I still think that the professional sports world is a difficult one in which to be gay.  There have been very few athletes who have come out of the closet during their careers (the only ones I can think of are WNBA athletes and I may even be wrong about that), and it seems like there will be this cloud of intolerance hanging over sports until there is an outed gay athlete currently playing in the NFL, NHL, NBA, or MLB.

My thought, with the recent death of Brendan Burke, is why not hockey, and why not now?  I don't know if any professional sports leagues have taken any steps to promote Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered acceptance.  It seems that at best, they just want to ignore the issue.  I wonder if the NHL could become the premiere league when it comes to LGBT awareness.  Granted that might turn off a certain crowd, but it's a crowd that's going extinct anyways and that negativity might be offset by reaching out to the LGBT community.

I'm realistic, I don't think that being the most LGBT friendly professional sports league would cause the NHL to leapfrog other sports in terms of popularity, but it would be a progressive move, and it would give them a leg up in at least one area.  Hockey was late to the party in breaking the color barrier as the NFL (1920), MLB (1947), and NBA (1950) all beat Willie O'Ree's debut in 1958 with the Boston Bruins.  It would be nice to see the NHL be the first to take an emphatic positive stance in support of the LGBT community, and the NHL might be the best league for the task.  Somewhat ironically it could be Sean Avery leading the charge.



But it doesn't have to be. As New York pushes towards marriage equality, Terry Pegula and company push to put their fingerprints on the Sabres organization. It would be nice if a few of those fingerprints were rainbow colored.

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