May 19, 2010, 9:45 PM EST
A few months ago, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke’s son Brendan died in a car crash just months after courageously admitting that he was gay. To honor his son’s life, Burke is planning on marching in the Toronto Pride Parade and spoke out against homophobia during a keynote address for a Web site designed to make schools a safe environment for people who come out.
Brian Burke never expected to be a voice for change. That was the role his son took on when he announced to the world he was gay.
“I was afraid for his safety,” said the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager. “I said, ‘You need to have eyes on the back of your head.’ “
Yet Mr. Burke stood in front of a microphone Monday, facing reporters and a Toronto hotel conference room packed with gay and lesbian community members, calling for an end to homophobia in schools.
“I hate bullies,” he said. “We have to get to the point where everyone can go to school free of fear.”
I apologize for preaching about social justice on a silly hockey blog, but my belief is that when people look back at this era, they’ll look at the Gay Rights Movement in a similar way to the Civil Rights movement. Homophobia and racism are shameful cousins in many ways, so seeing progress in both areas will be a great relief.
Brian Burke faced a near-lifetime’s worth of heartache, highs and lows this year. From the Toronto Maple Leafs’ rough season to the US Olympic silver medal to the much more important (and tragic) death of his son, it’s been a long year for the outspoken executive. But perhaps with Burke’s high profile advocacy for tolerance, some good can come from a very sad situation.
If you want more information, feel free to check out MyGSA.ca, the site Burke spoke about.
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