If you can play, you can play.
Those seven words sum up the message of the You Can Play Project, founded two years ago by Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts, and Glenn Witman. “Dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation,” You Can Play began with one video, in which Burke and his father Brian, the president of the Calgary Flames who has been an executive with several NHL teams and in the league office, explained the establishment of the organization, founded to carry on the legacy of Brendan Burke, Patrick’s brother and Brian’s son, who worked for the rights of gay athletes in hockey. That one video became dozens, produced by professional, college, and high school teams, with athletes voicing their support for LGBT athletes.
Following an article I wrote last year about the organization, I got to know Craig Brownstein, former Laurel Park press box manager and current racing/hockey fan who found Puckbuddys.com and the @puckbuddys Twitter account, “for boys who like boys who like hockey.” Brownstein is also vice-president of media relations at the Washington, D.C. office of Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, and You Can Play Project is one of the firm’s pro bono clients. A few weeks ago, Brownstein called me to see if the Saratoga jockey colony would be interested in making a You Can Play video.
The answer was an enthusiastic “yes,” and thanks to the efforts and support of former jockey and current NYRA/HRTV/Fox Sports 1 racing analyst Richard Migliore; NYRA’s chief experience officer Lynn LaRocca; NYRA’s director of communications and media relations John Durso; cinematographers Mitch Levites and Joe Calderone; the owners who permitted their silks to be worn, and the jockeys themselves, the video was shot, edited, and produced in less than a week.
The Saratoga jockeys and the New York Racing Association are the first in racing to publicly support You Can Play. Here’s hoping they’re not the last, and thanks to everyone who made it possible.
If you can ride, you can ride.