June 07 2014 11:21AM
It goes without saying, or most certainly should, that people should not be judged based on the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their religion or their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, we aren't there yet.
That's what makes Andrew Ference's decision to March in Edmonton's Pride Parade in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender community (LGBT) today so commendable.
In a world that has yet to fully come to grips with accepting people for who they are, the captain of the Edmonton Oilers is stepping forward as a man who performs in a fraternity that struggles as much or more as any segment of our society with male sexuality.
When a player, Ference, who makes his living playing a tough game against tough men in the NHL chooses to participate in a parade celebrating diversity, it's still newsworthy. One need only type "Edmonton Pride Parade 2014" into Google's search engine to know that – six of the first 10 results I got this morning were in reference to Ference taking part.
It is news. I look forward to the day when it's not.
MAKING A STATEMENT
Even today, acceptance of sexual orientation is far from universal, be it here in Edmonton or anywhere else. Are we making progress? Absolutely, as a 55-year-old man who is old enough to remember a very different era when attitudes toward race, religion and sexual orientation – mine included – were different, I can say that with confidence.
It's also obvious, given the mistreatment of others that still makes headlines on a daily basis somewhere, old attitudes remain today in varying degrees. In my neighborhood. In your neighborhood. Certainly in the culture of the NHL. It is news, then, when Ference takes part, becoming the first member of the Oilers to do so.
Jen Scrivens, wife of Oiler goaltender Ben Scrivens, will march today. Former Oiler Georges Laraque has marched in Montreal. Manny Malhotra and Jason Garrison have marched in Vancouver. In 2011, Sean Avery came out in favor of equal marriage rights in New York. Brian Burke has marched. Burke's son Patrick started the You Can Play initiative in 2012 after brother Brendan died in an automobile accident in 2010.
"Making sure that (LGBT) youth know they have allies at the pro level, or whether it’s a teammate who might be thinking about coming out, or whatever it is, we want to make sure that it’s an accepting environment for everyone," Ference told the Edmonton Journal. "I know most of my teammates and guys around the league line up with the same kind of belief."
LEADING THE WAY
Yes, most but not all. In that, the NHL is no different than the rest of society. My neighborhood. Your neighborhood. For all of the progress made since I was a kid growing up in the 1960s and 70s, for how we more often embrace our brothers and sisters for what they are rather than what we think they should be, we still have a long way to go.
Players like Andrew Ference will help get us there. That's what leaders do.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.