In honor of Pride Month, the Detroit Red Wings are highlighting nonprofit organizations that recognize and celebrate inclusion, equality, love and togetherness every day.
Today's interview is with Cavender Salvadori, project manager for the You Can Play Project. The Red Wings have proudly supported You Can Play the past three seasons through various promotions and proceeds from the auction of autographed, player-used Pride Tape hockey sticks.
You Can Play is a LGBTQ+ nonprofit that works to create more inclusive sports spaces by working with professional teams through youth-level teams. You Can Play hosts Pride Nights, workshops and training with coaches, staffs, fans to encourage storytelling moments with panels in hopes of creating a network of LGBTQ+ athletes and allies to show that it doesn't matter your gender expression, gender identity or sexual orientation. All that matters is that you have heart, drive and desire to play sports.
Salvadori, who's been with the organization for almost three years, spoke to DetroitRedWings.com about the amazing work that You Can Play does in the community and its partnership with the Red Wings.
Interview with Cavender Salvadori
Q: What does Pride mean to you, and do you enjoy most about Pride Month?
A: To me, Pride represents an ability to be visible and authentic. I think, too often throughout the year, people don't have that luxury. But if you go to a Pride celebration or celebrate at home, it gives you an opportunity to reflect on your identity and it allows you to be visible. Especially for people in the smaller communities, they can go to a bigger city and see that they're not alone in this. This year especially, Pride, to me, means not taking being accepted for granted and allowing us to reflect on the fact that it hasn't always been like this. So just not forgetting that past.
Q: What has You Can Play gained from its partnership with the Red Wings?
A: Using the Red Wings platform to show that there are fans in the LGBTQ+ community has been awesome. I think when someone, for example, is a closeted athlete and they see the Red Wings support the LGBTQ+ community, I think that provides them with an opportunity to believe there is a spot for them in this world, and they don't have to leave sports because it's not welcoming for them. So if there's a closeted hockey player in Detroit, it's awesome for them to see that they're supported by their home team.
Q: What are the biggest challenges athletes in the LGBTQ+ community face on a daily basis?
A: In sports, I think it's believing that you're welcome and you won't be shunned out. I think a lot of times, especially when you're first starting in sports, there's a lot of locker room culture that isn't very inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community. So it can be really hard if you're closeted or your teammates don't know your identity, you feel like you can't bring your whole authentic self, so that's a lot of mental stress to go through.
Q: What can hockey organizations do to create a more inclusive environment for players, coaches and fans in the LGBTQ+ community?
A: Continue to do Pride Nights to show everyone is welcome. I think that goes a long way for fans. And to take it further for fans, teams can create a fan program where someone experiences something in the stands, they can immediately report it and continue to feel safe. For athletes and coaches, I think just educating people and educating the team leadership about the LGBTQ+ community and about what you can do to create more inclusive spaces. A lot of times, people want to do the work, but they don't necessarily know how. A lot of being an ally, especially nowadays, is it doesn't matter if you don't know what to do, it's just about wanting to learn.
Q: There's been a lot of discussion lately about inclusion and equality with the Black Lives Matter movement and with the recent civil rights law protecting LGBTQ+ workers. How big of a step do you think that is?
A: It's a huge step, but it's also a stark reminder that before two weeks ago, in 26 states, you could be fired from your job just for being who you are. So I think it just reminds us that we shouldn't take what we have for granted. With Black Lives Matter, I think you need to understand intersectionality and understand that everyone's identity is different and everyone has different experiences, and just really learning that you need to listen to people. Just because you've had a great experience in your community doesn't mean that everyone else has.
Q: How can Red Wings fans support the work of You Can Play?
A: First and foremost, you can visit our website at YouCanPlayProject.org. We have a couple resources there about how you can bring our messaging to your own locker room and to your own spaces. And there are also some general terms like LGBTQ+ 101 one-pagers and some other tips. And you can also follow us on social media. On all social media, we're @YouCanPlayTeam. And lastly, we have a Pride Auction right now. You can find information about that on social media. We have some sports memorabilia including a jersey from the Red Wings.
Q: What do you see for the partnership with the Red Wings and You Can Play and the LGBTQ+ community moving forward?
A: Continuing what we've been doing but including the community even further. I hope that we can get some representatives to come out to a local LGBTQ+ center and volunteer there, or just provide more information for fans. The one word would just be education and continuing that education. I think the Red Wings are super open and super willing to do things, which is all we really ask. With allies, it's really just about listening and about being open, and I think the Red Wings do that really well.
For more information, visit YouCanPlayProject.org or follow @YouCanPlayTeam on social media.