Camels join campaign against LGBT bias in sports

New London - The Connecticut College Camels have joined the effort to rid sports culture of homophobia and discrimination, assuring other student-athletes that, "If you can play, you can play at Connecticut College."

In a video featured on the website of You Can Play - a social activism campaign aimed at ensuring equality, respect and safety for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) athletes - members of the college's athletic teams asserted that there is no place for such discrimination at their school.

Senior Lowell Abbott, a member of the women's soccer and lacrosse teams, urged her fellow Camels to participate in the You Can Play initiative after hearing co-founder Patrick Burke speak at a conference this summer.

"Thrilled to have the Conn College Camels join YCP," Burke, who is also the NHL's director of player safety, posted Monday on Twitter. "Obviously they don't care who you hump."

You Can Play has partnered with other collegiate athletic programs, professional athletes and musical artists including the University of Connecticut men's hockey team, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and rap artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

Abbott said she hopes the video makes clear that the college is dedicated to eradicating homophobia in sports and that all student-athletes are embraced as teammates, regardless of their sexual orientation.

"I hope student-athletes who are considering applying to the college will see the video and understand our cultural values before getting to campus, and those affected more personally by the video will come here with the knowledge that Connecticut College athletics are a safe and welcoming space regardless of sexual orientation," she said.

Abbott and the other athletes who participated in the unscripted video also attended a workshop on creating a safe and respectful environment for their teammates both on and off the playing field.

"It is definitely a topic that isn't talked about enough, it's a subject people kind of skirt around," Abbott said. "Having had teammates at Conn who are LGBTQ, I want them to know that there is nothing I'm going to judge them on except skill and their dedication to the sport."

Jen Manion, who directs Connecticut College's LGBTQ Center, said that in general, athletics have lagged behind in addressing homophobia, but she called the You Can Play video "an awesome start" to changing sports culture.

"It's time to talk about sports, and it's time for us to create change. It's one of the last bastions of society where discrimination and slurs are tolerated. It doesn't have to be this way," according to the You Can Play website. "There's an assumption in sports that gay and lesbian players are shunned by all athletes. It's just not true and You Can Play is dedicated to providing positive messages from athletes, coaches and fans."

Earlier this year, Connecticut College was named by the Huffington Post and Campus Pride a top LGBT-friendly campus as a result of college policies, such as having a gender-neutral housing option. The school's LGBTQ Center was established in 2006, and outgoing President Leo I. Higdon Jr. has called it one of the biggest achievements of his presidency.

"We made a conscious effort to make this a welcoming community for everyone and we pride ourselves as an institution on making great strides in that area," Higdon said in a statement.

"With the growth of the LGBTQ Center and initiatives like the You Can Play video, I see an even brighter future," Higdon said.

c.young@theday.com

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