“I think words are thrown around that people don’t necessarily understand the meanings of them, or the ramifications — what they could potentially do to someone’s feelings,” Hendricks said. “Looking back to when I was a younger player, before I got into the professional ranks, the slurs and the terminology that’s used in the locker rooms at a younger age isn’t necessarily out there to be malicious, but it definitely could be.”
The Capitals will announce Tuesday that Hendricks and the franchise are supporting a project called “You Can Play,” which endeavors to foster equality, respect and safety for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation. The move by Hendricks and the Capitals follows local support for the movement by D.C. United and the George Washington University athletic department, and it comes not only during an election season when gay rights issues are on the ballot in four states, but also in a month when a pair of NFL players have come out vociferously in support of gay marriage rights.
Hendricks has recorded a public service announcement, one that follows several filmed by other NHL players since the project launched in March. That was just a month after the 2010 death, in a car accident, of Brendan Burke, the 21-year-old son of Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke — a mentor and friend of Capitals General Manager George McPhee.
Brendan Burke was a manager on the hockey team at Miami (Ohio) University. He was gay. Brendan’s brother, Patrick, helped found You Can Play in the month after his brother’s death, in part because he felt his brother had spoken out courageously about his own sexuality in an environment that hasn’t traditionally welcomed such talk.
The day the first PSA aired, during a national broadcast of a game between the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins, 30 NHL players had lent their support. Now, that number has doubled, and it appears to grow every day.
“The exciting thing for us has been the players and the schools and the teams that now are calling us,” Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, said by telephone Monday. “It started out with us having to recruit players. . . . We almost don’t even have to recruit anymore.”
Hendricks’s wife of four years, Kim, initially suggested Hendricks use his position as a professional athlete to help. Last November, Kim gave birth to twins — a son, Gunnar, and a daughter, Lennon. The couple has since spent time since discussing how they want to raise their children.