The Toronto Raptors will make history on Wednesday when they become the first team in the NBA to host a night in support of its LGBTQ fans when they host the Detroit Pistons. The team partnered with the organization dedicated to ensuring respect, safety and equality for all people in sports, including LGBTQ athletes, coaches and fans.
You Can Play has been around a few years, but this is the group’s first major initiative in the NBA. You Can Play was started in 2012 by Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts, and Glenn Witman. Burke, the son of NHL executive Brian Burke, helped the movement take roots in hockey as You Can Play spread the initiative throughout the NHL and beyond.
Wednesday night’s Raptors game will focus on inclusion and also serve as the debut for a public service announcement featuring Raptors players sharing You Can Play’s message. Fans from an LGBTQ youth group will also attend and the team will have special winter hats for sale, along with other messages from the initiative.
“The Toronto Raptors are honoured to welcome fans to Air Canada Centre for the first You Can Play night,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a team release. “As an organization, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment prides itself on the values of diversity, equality and inclusion and we look forward to being a part of history, together with our passionate fans and the city of Toronto.”
Inclusion is always a good message, and it’s good that the Raptors are following the lead of the other sports teams in Toronto. Maybe the rest of the NBA will follow.