Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers Speaks Out Against Homophobia in Sports: A Fan’s Take

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The Florida Panthers' all-star defenseman Brian Campbell speaks out against homophobia in a PSA video for the You Can Play campaign that seeks to expand acceptance of gay and lesbian hockey players.

Campbell is among several NHL stars that are taking part in the campaign. As a Panthers fan I'm glad to see one of our boys step up to this cause.

The video features Soupy and fellow Florida hockey star Stephen Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The video stresses the qualities of standing up for your teammates and the simple message, "if you can play, you can play." The message places sportsmanship and competition over sexual preference.

Hockey is a sport that is full of machismo and a hard as nails attitude. All macho shenanigans aside, there has never been an openly gay hockey player in the NHL. And yes, there is a very high chance that there are several homosexual players in the league right now but they're afraid to be open about their sexuality. You Can Play utilizes guys like Campbell to get the message out that sexuality doesn't matter, only winning hockey games matters.

According to their mission statement You Can Play exists to "challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete's skills, work ethic and competitive spirit."

You Can Play is the brainchild of Patrick Burke and his father Brian. The Burkes aren't strangers to the hockey world. Brian is the outspoken GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs while his son Patrick is a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers.

The campaign is dedicated to Brenden Burke who came out in 2009 while at the University of Miami Ohio. Brenden died in a car accident in 2010 and since then his brother and father have been leading the charge for acceptance of the LGBT community in professional sports.

Campbell's involvement in this program is particularly important because of the large LGBT population in South Florida. Anyone who lives in South Florida knows that drag shows and parades are the order of the day down here. Campbell's involvement with You Can Play not only reaches out to the greater state of hockey but also makes a positive statement to his local community. If the Cats are lucky Soupy might decide he likes the warm weather and stay down here for a while.

Sources:

You Can Play Project

You Can Play: Patrick Burke's bold effort using NHL players to fight homophobia in hockey

Brenden Burke's Legacy as a hockey pioneer

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Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein

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