By David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc., SDL (He/Him)
For 10 years now, the You Can Play Project has worked “to ensure the safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches and fans. We achieve this by creating a community of allies that is able to foster a true sense of belonging. This becomes possible when sports teams sharpen the focus on the person’s skills, work ethic, and competitive spirit, not their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”
During this decade of work, the You Can Play Project has established relationships with major sports organizations and leagues such as the NHL, NFL, MLS, Minor League Baseball, Nascar, Nike, Team USA, Team Canada and more. Throughout these partnerships, the You Can Play Project has been able to develop resources, organize events such as LGBT pride nights, conduct research and educate the greater sports community about diversity, inclusion, and equity of LGBTQ+ people in sports. Most notably, they have taken on the locker room and fan culture that has traditionally been toxic against LGBTQ+ people and have worked to build a “culture of respect for every player, coach, and fan.”
In addition to bringing LGBTQ+ pride to the games of major sports leagues such as the NHL, NFL, and MLS. The You Can Play Project has also brought teams and athletes from those leagues to participate in LGBTQ+ pride festivals. This has been important in building relationships and connections between professional sports leagues and the LGBTQ+ community that has gone on to lead to things like NFL teams sponsoring LGBTQ+ sports events like Gay Bowl and hosting workshops and educational events surrounding sports diversity. Using their platform as a professional sports organization to promote LGBTQ+ diversity, inclusion, and equity in sports.
For their 10th Anniversary, You Can Play will be at the Ball Arena with the Colorado Avalanche on March 5th against the Calgary Flame for Pride Night. Participants will receive an Avalanche pride beanie with the ticket proceeds going to raise money for You Can Play and One Colorado. In addition, there will be a free skate on Ball Arena’s ice following the game in partnership with Track’s Denver.