GLAAD RESPONDS TO LUKE PROKOP’S COMING OUT AS GAY, A FIRST FOR THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE

July 19, 2021

 

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is responding to NHL player Luke Prokop’s announcement on Twitter and Instagram that he is gay. Prokop is the first active NHL player under contract to come out as gay.

Prokop is 19 years old and from Edmonton, Alberta. He was selected by the Nashville Predators in the third round of the 2020 NHL draft and signed a three-year contract with the Predators in December.

Quote from Rich Ferraro, GLAAD Chief Communications Officer:

“Luke’s coming out is another milestone for LGBTQ visibility in sports that is being met with support and affirmation from league officials. By speaking out, Luke has created an inspiring moment for all young hockey fans to see they can be their authentic selves and achieve any dream. This has already been a historic year for out LGBTQ people in sports, including Carl Nassib’s coming out in the NFL, Kumi Yokoyama in soccer, and record representation at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It sends an unequivocal message of support and acceptance to LGBTQ youth in every field and arena, that you belong and you are valued, just as you are.”

Prokop posted this morning on his personal social media: “While the past year and a half has been crazy, it has also given me the chance to find my true self. I am no longer scared to hide who I am. Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay. It has been quite the journey to get to this point in my life. From a young age I have dreamed of being an NHL player, and I believe that living my authentic life will allow me to bring my whole self to the rink and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams. I hope that in sharing who I am I can help other people see that gay people are welcome in the hockey community, as we work to make sure that hockey truly is for everyone."

In an interview with ESPN on Monday, Prokop said that he had struggled in his hockey career because of the pressure to hide his sexual orientation, and he hoped that by coming out, he would “finally... be able to breathe and exhale and show the world the real me.” Prokop described hiding his phone from teammates last season and experiencing anxiety while hiding his authentic self. Since coming out to Predators management and teammates, though, Prokop said he has been moved by the supportive response. And he is now freer to focus on his game; Prokop told The Athletic on Monday that since coming out to his team, “I’ve noticed myself being a lot more confident on the ice.”

Statements of support for Prokop were issued Monday by the NHL, the Predators, the NHL Players Association, and by other athletes and sportscasters. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “I share [Luke’s] hope that these announcements can become more common in the hockey community. LGBTQ players, coaches, and staff can only perform at their absolute best if they live their lives as their full and true selves.”

NHL statement: https://twitter.com/NHL/status/1417119419646550021

Predators statement: https://twitter.com/PredsNHL/status/1417121561593667589

National Hockey League Players Association statement: https://twitter.com/NHLPA/status/1417122125215842315

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH

  • A record 157 Olympic and Paralympic athletes competing in the 2020 Tokyo Games are out as LGBTQ, more than all previous Olympic Games, and including the first out transgender athletes to participate. Outsports is continually updating the list. GLAAD, Athlete Ally and Pride House Tokyo released a guide to covering LGBTQ athletes at the Summer Games this morning.
  • Carl Nassib came out as gay in June, becoming the first out active player in the National Football League; Washington Spirit soccer star Kumi Yokoyama came out as transgender in June, and described a strong pressure to conform and remain closeted in their native Japan
  • A 2019 study showed 80% of those surveyed had witnessed or experienced homophobia in sports, homophobic language being most common
  • The Trevor Project research shows 40% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being physically threatened or harmed because of their gender identity. 75% of LGBTQ youth reported that they had experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, increasing the risk of suicidal ideation.