Sport has a unique way of uniting people, igniting friendships, and changing lives. When we met in 2011, Patrick had been invited by Glenn to speak at a forum for athletes at the University of Denver. Glenn and Patrick had mutual friends. Brian showed up at the invitation of Glenn, who he’d known while working for the Avalanche and while Glenn was working with GForce Sports. Without much discussion other than hockey small talk, but with a real determination, we began a year-long process to leverage what we know about sports, and what we felt about what is right, into You Can Play.
Along the way, we’ve been able to choose our teammates and they’ve chosen us – men and women to whom we owe tremendous gratitude. Some of their efforts have been great assists, some have been jaw-dropping game changers. We thank them all.
Brendan Burke's Legacy
Brendan Burke was an amazing collegiate hockey athlete, unfortunately taken too early by a car accident. Brendan had come out to his team and the public while at Miami University and was one of the first Division 1 college athletes to have the bravery to do so. You Can Play was founded with Brendan and all the other athletes in mind who struggle with their sexuality, gender identity and their sport.
In 2011 discussions began between Brendan's brother Patrick Burke, and Glenn Witman and Brian Kitts. Kitts and Witman were both passionate about LGBTQ+ advocacy within sport and working to make change. Once teamed up, they founded You Can Play in early 2012 and the progress was launched!
The Early Years
Out of the gate, You Can Play found traction within the NHL and many professional leagues, as well as collegiate and youth programs. Early success brought an ESPY award, recognition from the UN on humanitarian efforts and several leagues signing on to make positive change within their organizations.
Our continued work focuses on the persistant need for inclusion efforts at the pro and participation level of sport. Every day we are reminded of the need for education, awareness, tools & tips, voices sharing their stories and attention on the issues that keep many kids out of sport. We will not alter our course until sport is a welcoming and safe home for all athletes, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, because if you can play, YOU can play!
Just a few of the Awards You Can Play has earned through the years:
GLAAD Media Awards – Outstanding Video, Sports, 2013
ESPN Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award – 2015
1st LGBTQ sports advocacy group to address United Nations Human Rights Commission – 2015
National Education Association Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights – 2016
International Olympic Committee Sport Beyond Borders Award – 2017
Meet the Founding Team
Many more individuals, teams, leagues and supporters deserve a place in our recognition and deep gratitude for their help in getting You Can Play off the ground.