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The Courage Game: Support Gay Youth, Rebuke Bullying, and Promote Awareness for LGBT Equality

Within the sports universe, lacrosse has established itself as the clear-cut leader in accepting openly gay athletes. Our sport was the first to draft and play an openly gay man in its professional league, and we did it without any of the buzz of the NFL’s drafting of Michael Sam because it simply wasn’t a major issue to anyone in Major League Lacrosse. Numerous high school, collegiate, and post-collegiate lacrosse players have found support and acceptance after making the brave decision to come out to their teammates and coaches. This is something everyone in the lacrosse world can be proud of.

However, our sport still faces a real challenge at the youth levels, where homophobic language and the simple assumption that lacrosse players are heterosexual can make young gay athletes feel alone or unwelcome during the years before they are ready to come out. It’s important that we continually stand up for young lacrosse players and encourage them to stick with the sport regardless of who they are.

Braeden’s inspiring story

Braeden and Andrew Goldstein
Braeden and me

I recently posted an uplifting story in the Sporting News and on Outsports.com about a very courageous lacrosse player named Braeden who decided to come out to his family and friends shortly after his 12th birthday.

Braeden was unfortunately struggling with online bullying after coming out. When it got bad enough that he started talking about suicide, his father reached out to me for help. I knew I had to do everything I could to make sure that this boy and so many others like him know that it’s okay to be different and that it will all be okay in the end, including sending a video and recruiting other openly gay lacrosse players to do the same.

Braeden's letter to Andrew Goldstein
Read Braeden’s letter

Braeden described in a letter to me, “Thank you for making me realize that I’m not alone. Your video touched my heart and the day I got that video was the best day of my life. Your video and all the other ones boosted my confidence to where I felt like I was unstoppable.”

Luckily, Braeden’s father was able to find help for his son. But who is standing up for the kids who are not quite ready to tell their friends and families and don’t know who to reach out to?

We need to make a bold statement for them. We need to let them know they are not alone. And we need to show them they are welcome in the sport of lacrosse.

The first annual Courage Game is born

Lacrosse All Stars and the You Can Play Project are co-sponsoring the “Courage Game,” inspired by Braeden’s story and organized by those of us in the lacrosse world who responded to Braeden’s call. The mission of the Courage Game is to encourage and support gay youth, rebuke bullying, and promote wider education and awareness for LGBT equality. We are playing this game for those kids who aren’t ready to come out but deserve to know that they belong.

In the recently posted articles, we asked openly gay lacrosse players and allies to join us in Philadelphia over Memorial Day weekend, Braeden’s hometown and the site of the NCAA lacrosse championships. Since the articles went out, we have seen an overwhelming response. We’ve heard from gay lacrosse players at all levels, from former Division 1 starters and current all-state high school student-athletes to club lacrosse players.

Even the Major League Lacrosse commissioner reached out in response to the story, asking if he could replace the Long Island Lizards helmet that now hangs on Braeden’s shelf as a constant reminder that his life matters. The commissioner also reiterated the MLL’s stance that sexual orientation has never mattered to them and never will.

How to get involved now

So I encourage more lacrosse players, gay or straight, to join us in Philadelphia for the Courage Game, which will be played on Sunday, May 24th at 10am on Adams Field at Penn Park. Let’s continue to stand up for our youth, the future of our sport, and continue to demonstrate, with actions rather than words, that lacrosse is a leader in the sports world.

If you are interested in getting involved, please sign up to play at CourageGame.org/RegisterToPlay and check out CourageGame.org for all the details.

First Annual Courage Game