UW Superior commits to keeping athletics free of harassment toward gay athletes

By KBJR News 1

February 17, 2014 Updated Feb 17, 2014 at 11:33 PM CDT

Superior, WI (NNCNOW.com) --- A Twin Ports university is among the first in Wisconsin to commit to keeping its locker rooms and fields free of harassment toward gay athletes.

It's part of a national campaign now being adopted by colleges across the US.

The University of Wisconsin Superior is the first college in Wisconsin to adopt the nationwide social activism campaign called "You Can Play."

"No one else has done it. It sets us apart," said UWS athlete Vicki Vinokur.

If a team wants to take the pledge, they film a video committing to keeping their spaces safe for gay and lesbian athletes.

"I had a gay brother as well and he was an athlete, so personally there's some personal thoughts in there. But most important is that everybody that comes to our university is comfortable," said Steven Nelson, athletic director at UWS.

Project leaders at UWS say it's a way for the athletic department and student athletes to show their support for gay athletes.

"Personally for me, I'm a gay man, and so I have traveled that journey and I know how difficult that can be," said Terry McGlasson, UW Superior's assistant professor of counseling.

McGlasson says the issue is more than just an athletics issue; it's a human rights issue.

"If we have gay or lesbian athletes that are in the closet and are afraid to be known for who they are, if they see these people on these videos saying, 'we accept you, we're willing to embrace you,' hopefully they'll feel comfortable to go out and be who they truly are with their teammates," said McGlasson.

The project started in March of 2012 by NHL players after the son of Toronto Maple Leaves general manager, who was an openly gay athlete, died in a car crash.

UWS athletes say they have already seen the project's impact with fellow teammates.

"We did this stress exercise where we stepped in the circle if someone was gay or bisexual, and he stepped in and I was really proud 'cause he wasn't afraid to show it. I felt like it helped him a lot," said Vinokur.

"Things are changing and our little campus here in Superior, Wisconsin is sending a very strong message that we accept and respect everyone," said McGlasson.

UWS will unveil the version of their video on the national website in April... hoping other schools will follow their lead.

Even some high–school teams are taking part in the project posting videos to the website.

Elsa Robins