As a kid, did you ever want to meet an NFL player face-to-face? Now, gay and lesbian youths will have that chance. A new program called the High Five Initiative links LGBT kids with professional athletes to encourage participation in sports by athletes of all sexual orientations. The program, part of the You Can Play Project, is directed by former-NFL player Wade Davis.
“We hope through these one-on-one interactions youth will see they are welcomed in sports,” he said of the program’s announcement. “If youth only hear that sports is about toughness, masculinity and violence, some may choose not to play. But when youth learn the true essence of sports is family, solidarity and compassion for all participants, then we will see more youth, especially LGBT youth, understand sports is a place for them.”
The first professional athletes to participate in yesterday’s soft launch were from the NFL, according to the press release. Former NFL players Troy Vincent and Dwight Hollier dropped in on the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York City which provides social, academic and educational support to LGBTQ teenagers and young adults (ages 13-24). Vincent and Hollier toured the facility (led by youth who go there) and heard about two internship programs by the teenagers who participate in them. The NFL reps also received a little schooling on LGBT issues, as the kids talked with them about appropriate pronoun use and safe places. The kids in turn could ask questions about playing for the NFL as Vincent and Hollier shared their experience in professional sports.
Efforts like this will vamp up through the High Five initiative with even more players and organizations involved during next year’s NFL season. The National Hockey League and Major League Soccer are also affiliated with the program. Commentators hope that the program might even serve another purpose—in encouraging these leagues to open up to expanding their own diversity and inclusion efforts for both fans and players.
The You Can Play Project is an advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and gender identity.