Patrick Burke, who helped found the You Can Play Project, which is dedicated to fighting homophobia in sports, announced Tuesday he was stepping down as the group's executive director.
Burke, who along with Brian Kitts and Glenn Whitman created YCP in 2012, remains as the group's president, but will be taking a less-public role with the group.
Replacing Burke as executive director is Wade Davis, a former NFL player who announced his homosexuality in 2012.
"I think, for too long, we've had a straight voice kind of dominating the conversation," Burke said. "I think that there's something to be said for empowering a gay, black, former NFL player who can connect with people in ways that I can't."
The son of former NHL general manager Brian Burke and a former scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, Patrick Burke used his NHL connections to help promote YCP in its early days. Top NHL players immediately offered their help, with New York Rangers teammates Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell of the Flyers, the Chicago Blackhawks' Duncan Keith, and Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs among those appearing in a video promoting the group's slogan: If you can play, you can play.
A formal partnership between YCP, the NHL and the NHL Players' Association was signed in April.
"Our motto is 'Hockey Is For Everyone,' and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in announcing the deal with YCP. "While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players' Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands."
"NHL players have supported the You Can Play Project since its inception, which we are pleased to formalize and expand upon with today's announcement," Don Fehr, NHLPA executive director, said. "The players believe our partnership with the NHL and You Can Play will foster an inclusive hockey environment from the grassroots level to the professional ranks."
Since then, YCP has created partnerships with Major League Soccer and individual professional and college teams.
Burke helped create YCP after his brother, Brendan, was killed in a car accident not long after publicly announcing he was gay.
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