"High Five" Effort Looks To Connect NFL Players And LGBT Youth

The You Can Play Project wants to help create LGBT allies inside the NFL.

Former NFL football player Wade Davis is executive director of the You Can Play Project. AP Photo/Scott Eisen

If you know a gay person, you’re more likely to support LGBT rights. Such is the correlation driving the You Can Play Project’s new “High Five” initiative, which aims to bring NFL players together on a one-on-one basis with LGBT youth across the country.

The You Can Play group was co-founded by Patrick Burke, an NHL executive whose father is a major figure in the hockey world and whose brother Brendan died in 2010 shortly after coming out. Its goal: inclusion of out LGBT individuals in sports culture. YCP executive director Wade Davis (who played in training camp with several NFL teams and came out after retiring) and former NFL players and NFL player-engagement execs Troy Vincent and Dwight Hollier kicked off the initiative Tuesday with a visit to the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI) in Manhattan, which cares for and educates LGBT youth, many of whom are homeless.

Vincent and Hollier were taken on a brief tour of the HMI campus and then met with a room of about 20 students to discuss the parallels between their lives. Vincent’s testimony about the difficulty of realizing you’re no longer a star performer found unexpected resonance with Tamara Williams. What followed was probably the first-ever comparison between professional football and club dancing. “The kiki scene is a lot like football,” the 24-year-old Williams told Vincent. “It’s all about you and your performance and who’s the best. And when you’re the best, that’s how people look at you.”

You Can Play hopes to expand the initiative to LGBT youth groups in other cities and enlist other NFL players and professional athletes into the effort.

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