Saturday night was the Florida Panther’s first ever Equality Night. The Cats became the first team in the league to partner with the You Can Play Project in putting together this type of night. The project aims to battle homophobia both inside and outside of the locker room.
The event aimed to promote equality in sports with proceeds of Equality Night ticket packages benefiting The Pride Center in Wilton Manors, FL. Co-founder of the You Can Play project, Glenn Witman spoke before the game in the Sawgrass room at the BB&T Center and also dropped the ceremonial puck before the Florida Panthers faced off against the Minnesota Wild for a 2-1 shootout victory.
Spearheaded from within the organization by Group Sales Account Executive Brandon Loker, Equality Night received attention from across social networks, sports media and local media.
“There were people at the event who would never have come to the game without the Equality Night,” said Loker.
During the game, a promotional spot featuring the Florida Panthers’ Brian Campbell and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos was highlighted on the new scoreboard.
When asked why he got involved with the project, Campbell described it as a no-brainer.
“It doesn’t matter your beliefs or what you are…if you are good enough to play, you can play,” said Campbell.
One fan tweeted that it might be the first, but it won't be the last.
Occurring on the Saturday following the NHL, MLB, NFL and other North American Sports teams celebration of Spirit Day on Thursday, Oct. 17, the anti bullying message and equality was carried throughout the week.
“It’s all just a mindset, and breaking down those stereotypes is essential,” said Loker.