US: Major League Soccer teams up with anti-discrimination campaign

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The football league representing the highest level in the US, Major League Soccer (MLS), has announced that it is upping efforts to tackle anti-LGBT discrimination by joining up with the You Can Play Project.

Patrick Burke, director of the You Can Play Project, which aims to ensure that athletes of any sexual orientation are treated with respect, and treated equally, announced that it will team up with MLS and the MLS Players Union, in order to provide training, education to teams, staff, management and players.

Burke said that the organisation was working to ensure that, following Robbie Rogers’ decision to come out earlier this year, other gay players can avoid possible struggles, when deciding whether to come out.

Rogers quit professional football in January, shortly before coming out as gay. He had returned to training with the Los Angeles team three weeks ago, and is now the first openly gay Major League Soccer player.

“We’ll be able to provide anonymous, confidential resources to players who may have questions, whether it’s about their own sexual orientation, whether it’s about a teammate, a family member, whatever it might be,” said Burke, speaking to ESPN.

“So a player in Robbie’s previous situation, playing as a closeted player, would have an anonymous, confidential way to reach out to somebody who could help them with the struggles they might be facing. That’s the biggest part of this really, that a player hopefully in the future won’t have to go through what a player like Robbie or David Testo in the past did go through.”

He went on to say that the three organisations would be working closely together, in order to raise awareness about anti-LGBT discrimination in general.

Prior to the announcement, MLS and the You Can Play Project had been working intermittently together, and had met up following the suspension of MLS player Alan Gordon, for using a homophobic slur. The partnership with You Can Play will run alongside MLS’s Don’t Cross the Line project, which aims to stamp out discrimination of any kind.

Back in April, the National Hockey League became the first major professional team sport in the US to announce a formal partnership with You Can Play.