UPDATE: You Can Play released a statement noting that Cam and YCP founder Patrick Burke had a long and productive conversation, and saying that it's only through similar conversations that change will occur.
Athletes have been raised in a culture that encourages, if not celebrates, casual homophobia. Changing their habits is certainly necessary, but it is not easy. We simply must give athletes a chance to learn, to grow, and to be educated on these issues. We must never condone the private or public use of these hateful slurs. But we must also be constantly aware that for many athletes, they do not see the full extent of the hate these words carry. We remain convinced that we are on the right track.
New Jersey Devils player Cam Janssen today apologized for an anti-gay answer he gave in this week during an interview with a St. Louis-based internet radio show. Discussing the art of trash-talking, one of the hosts asked him a very leading (and homophobic) question.
Janssen: "There's some sh*t-talkin' that goes down that pisses some people off. There's a lot of personal sh*t, man, like, guys know personal sh*t. ... You wanna get in people's heads to get them off their f*ckin' game and don't get me wrong, you don't wanna go too deep with sh*t because we all have our issues here. Let's be honest."
Host: "But if the guy was suckin' c*ck four weeks ago, you're gonna let him know about it?"
Janssen: "Oh, if he's suckin' c*ck, he's gettin' his ass kicked." [laughter]
However, as Queerty and others have pointed out, this answer flies in the face of the incredible work the NHL has been doing with the You Can Play project, which encourages all sports to be inclusive of LGBT players.
Janssen today apologized for his remarks and expressed his personal support for the message of You Can Play as well as the LGBT community in general.
"Earlier this week, I participated in an internet-based radio show in which I used some poor judgment which I now regret. The New Jersey Devils were unaware of this interview, which I arranged myself.
"I would like to apologize for my poor choice of language. The tone of the interview was very casual and off-color, and I lost focus on what is and is not acceptable and professional. I am deeply sorry to anyone who was offended by my language. Moving forward, I hope to eliminate that type of language from my vocabulary. I would also like to take this chance to express my support for the work the You Can Play project is doing, and for the gay community in general.
"I apologize for the embarrassment my comments have caused to the New Jersey Devils management, as well as my teammates."
Unlike some of the apologies we see, this one seems genuine and heartfelt, and it shows that Janssen understands the harm that statements like this can cause, especially to young LGBT athletes who aren't sure of their place on their team or in their sport. We hope Janssen will make good on his attempt to rid his own vocabulary of anti-LGBT language, and that he will become a champion in the movement to make the world of sports inclusive of all people.