Pro Hockey Coach Joins Fight Against Homophobia
Once a great hockey player and now coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brian Burke remains a prominent figure in the sports world. Now, in memory of his son, openly gay Brendan Burke, the famed athlete has spoken out for safe schools.
"I hate bullies," the elder Burke told a crowd gathered for the inauguration of Canadian Web site MyGSA.ca, reported Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail on May 18. "We have to get to the point where everyone can go to school free of fear." Added Burke, "This is something my son would have supported. I think I owe him that."
Burke was supportive of his gay son all along, his paternal affection not wavering when Brendan came out last year. Only a short time after coming out, Brendan Burke died in a car wreck, the accident taking place last February 5 on an icy stretch of Indiana highway. Brian Burke stood strong for GLBT equality in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, CNN and Sports Illustrated reported SI Vault on March 1.
"For Brian Burke to say, Yes, I drive a truck and I hunt, but Brendan’s my son and I love him no matter what-well, for me that was shocking and great," Trevor MacNeil of the all-gay Cutting Edges, a Vancouver team, told SI Vault. "It gives you a warm feeling knowing someone like him can be so affirmative," MacNeil added. "He’s trying to make being gay in sports a nonissue."
The article quoted Burke, Sr., as responding, when Brendan came out to him in 2007, with the words, "You know the best part? I don’t have to take anything back," because he had never attempted to inculcate his children with a belief that there anything pathological or immoral about homosexuality. Burke father and son were slated to walk together in the Toronto Pride march this summer; it’s a place that Brian Burke intends to go through with, SI Vault reported. "I’d promised him I would march with him," said Burke, Sr. "He won’t be there, but I will."