BY NOREEN FAGAN – In celebration of the Day of Pink, Brian Burke, manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, accepted the Youth Role Model of the Year Award from Jer's Vision.
Burke was given the award for his work in addressing homophobia in sports. Xtra sat down with Burke before the event.
"I am honoured, but my entrée into this line of work I would have preferred to avoid. I think my son has made a difference in the lives of young people in the LGBTQ community, and I am determined to continue that if I can. Poorly suited maybe: I am a big rough guy and I polarize people, so I am not sure I am the best advocate. But I also think it helps having a hockey guy who is a macho guy," said Burke.
He continued to talk about his interaction with the gay community ("It's a much kinder group") and about his son Brendan's coming out in 2009. A year after he came out, Brendan died in a car accident.
"Brendan went on TSN and talked about it from coast to coast. And the sick part of that was, after he came out I said to him, 'You better keep your head on the swivel a little while.' It's pretty tragic when that's the advice you have to give to your son."
Burke accepted his award with grace and gave an emotional speech about combating homophobia in sports.
The phenomenon is prevalent and there need to be more people out there breaking down the barriers. It doesn't help when basketball players like Kobe Byrant have a tantrum and yell "fucking fag" at a referee who issued a foul.
At least Byrant was fined $100,000 and, according to reports, he did apologize to Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese.