TAG | Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke, continues to lend his voice and support to fight against homophobia in place of his deceased son, Brendan Burke.
Yesterday, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Burke gave the keynote address to launch the new website, MyGSA.ca. The site provides resources and support for students, parents, and educators and aims to improve the protection for students that face anti-gay bullying.
Burke had this to say about bullying: “I hate bullies. We have to get to the point where everyone can go to school free of fear.”
The event was certainly emotional for Burke, still mourning the loss of his son. “This is something my son would have supported,” Mr. Burke said. “I think I owe him that.”
Halfway through his speech, intending to say some words about his son, Burke broke down and, unable to continue, asked that the media shut off their cameras. In what was surely an emotionally-charged moment, I cannot blame the guy for wanting to shed his tears without being filmed.
Neither article confirms, but based on his convictions, I imagine Burke intends to keep his promise to march in the Toronto Pride Parade on Sunday, July 4th.
In the Globe and Mail article, Burke said he felt like he let his son down by not finishing his speech. But I am so thankful to Brian Burke for continuing to honor his son in these ways, and I am certain that he will continue to make positive strides that his son would be proud of too.
Generally, when I want to merely forward a story, I simply post the link on this site’s Facebook page. I usually reserve making an actual post to instances when I have my own thoughts to add. However, this article written by Michael Farber for Sport Illustrated titled, “Man Of His Word,” referring to Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, warranted more than a mere forward.
The coming out and passing of his son Brendan Burke has been an emotional roller coaster for those that did not even know Brendan or his family. Personally, it is the most I’ve ever been affected by the passing of someone I did not know.
Farber’s style of writing is superb, especially displayed in his description of Brian and the influence that Brendan will have, even in death. I’ll let you read most of the article on your own, but this excerpt is my favorite and must be shared:
“After Brendan publicly revealed his sexual preference, Brian was flooded with requests to do advocacy work on behalf of gays. He told the groups that while he supported his son, he had other causes: land conservation, blood donation and children’s literacy. He didn’t want to dilute that work. This, too, changed on that Friday in February [when Brendan passed].
“Brendan’s causes are Brian’s now. He will do a public-service announcement aimed at eliminating the bullying of gay children. And he plans to march in the Toronto Pride Parade. ‘I’d promised him I would march with him,’ says Burke, who briefly left the Olympics last Friday to attend a memorial service for Brendan at Miami of Ohio. ‘He won’t be there, but I will.’”
Brendan Burke was laid to rest today in Canton, Massachusetts.
Brendan’s coming out—especially the support he received from his father Brian Burke, General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Miami (Ohio) hockey team where Brendan worked—was a major story at the end of November 2009 (link).
The tragedy of his passing has reverberated through the sports industry and the gay community. His sexuality should not be an issue at this time; rather, we should focus on his courage.
You can read more about the funeral services here, but there is an excerpt from his brother’s eulogy that I wanted to directly pass along.
Patrick Burke: “His vision of the world was a spark that lit a fire of hope in so many people. That fire has not been extinguished by his passing. His memory will fan the flame of courage in all of us.”
Rest in peace, Brendan.
I must take this time to thank all of allies to the gay community. In being out, I have had the amazing opportunity to feel the support and friendship of many. Over the past year, there have been members of the sports industry vocalizing their support as well. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and I suspect there are countless others that I either missed, that did not get substantial media coverage, or that made their support in private. I hope that it never becomes redundant for a player, coach, or executive to do so. If you know of any others that are not listed below, please pass them along.
I am thankful to these people for the support they have given in the past year (or so). Listed in reverse chronological order with a quick summary plus links to the original stories.
Nov 25 – Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and Miami U. (Ohio) Hockey Coach Enrico Blasi support Brendan Burke
Just this past week there was a great article about Brendan Burke and the support he has received from his father, NHL General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brian Burke, and Coach Enrico Blasi of Miami University (Ohio) where Brendan is a student assistant to the hockey team. That these two organizations could be receptive to a gay player is simply amazing. Read more about Brendan’s story and the response from his family and friends: ESPN and OutSports.
Nov 3 – Justin Bourne, ex-hockey player turned writer, calls for the end of using gay slurs in hockey
Justin Bourne isn’t exactly a household hockey name. He’s no Crosby or Ovechkin. I only recognize the name because he shares it with someone who I went to high school with (who, I’ll admit and accept the shame, dunked on me so hard in high school recreational basketball). So although Bourne may not have the same voice that an NHL superstar may have, I am thankful that he has taken the platform he has and his knack for writing to call for the end of using gay slurs in hockey. Read the column he wrote for USA Today or check out his blog.
Oct 6 – Scott Fujita, New Orleans Saints Linebacker, voices his support of gay rights and the National Equality march
I am so glad that Scott Fujita did a few interviews prior to the National Equality March. He is incredibly intelligent, articulate, and well-reasons. Speaking as an adopted child, he understands the importance of having good adoptive families, a challenging or even impossible process for gay prospective parents. The important factor for an adoptive parent is to be loving and supportive, not their sexuality, and it is the kids that ultimately suffer. There is an excellent question and answer interview with Scott in the Huffington Post or you can listen to an interview he did with the Edge of Sports radio show.
Apr 23 – Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo asks: what’s the big deal with gay marriage?
Before Scott Fujita, Brendon Ayanbadejo made the biggest splash of the year for NFL players supporting the gay rights movement. While none of his remarks about gay marriage are earth-shattering, he asks those same questions that the defenders of traditional marriage never seem to have an answer for: namely, how sacred is marriage considering the divorce rate and pathetic traditions in our society like Las Vegas marriages. Read Ayanbadejo’s column in the Huffington Post.
Nov 8, 2008 – Steve Young and his wife Barbara shun the Mormon plea to support the ban on gay marriage by donating $50,000 to the No on 8 campaign
Okay, this is more than a year old, but I am still very grateful and want to express it. During the Proposition 8 campaign last year in California, the Mormon church encouraged its members across the country to help ban gay marriage. Well, Barbara and Steve Young donated the other way and also proudly posted No on 8 signs in their house. I was quite disgusted by the response posted on an article covering the story; the Mormons came out in throngs to condemn the Youngs. Forget the supposed major tenets of Mormonism for free agency and love, in general. Hypocrisy is an amazing thing. I’ve since lost that specific link, unfortunately, but here are two other articles one by CBS5 and another by the SF Gate.