By Brian Stubits, for CBS Sports
Wade Davis had a few brief stints in NFL training camps before moving on to NFL Europe. Also, Davis is now an openly gay man who came out after his playing days.
As you can probably assume, Davis has become outspoken about his status as a gay former pro athlete and is an advocate for gay rights in sports. To further get his message out, he appeared on Joy Behar: Say Anything on Wednesday to talk about his experiences and what the future holds for gay pro athletes.
Why do we bring this up in the hockey blog? Because when Davis was talking to Behar about the potential for athletes to come out during their playing careers — something that Davis said he wishes he would have done — he said he expects it will happen first in the NHL.
And it makes a lot of sense. The NHL has been, perhaps, the most active pro sports league in North America trying to end homophobia in its ranks.
The league backed an initiative started by Patrick Burke, son of former Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and brother to the deceased Brendan Burke. Brendan was openly gay as a member of the Miami University hockey team staff before losing his life in a car crash. Patrick later created the You Can Play Project to promote acceptance, and it has been met with plenty of support. Multiple NHL players have appeared in commercials for the cause.
Davis knows well about the You Can Play Project and has worked with Patrick.
“Wade’s a good friend, on my advisory board, and a tremendous advocate,” Patrick Burke told CBSSports.com. “He knows all about us and is helping us bring You Can Play to the NFL. He’s seen our effectiveness in the NHL, which is why he thinks the first openly gay player will come from our league. We agree.”
Either way, I believe whole-heartedly there will be a pro athlete in North American sports who comes out while still active in the near future and it wouldn’t shock me in the least to see it happen in the NHL. And because of the work of Patrick Burke and others, I don’t think it will be a terribly big deal. Really, the greatest thing that could happen for the acceptance movement would be a collective shrug.