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The Toronto Marlies are leading – both on and off the ice. The Leafs farm team is being hailed as an inspirational trailblazer joining the You Can Play project to promote LGBT equality in sports. Founded by Patrick Burke, son of Leafs GM Brian Burke, the You Can Play movement has been embraced by many professional athletes and teams; the Marlies own YCP video was released on Monday. For the players, a video simply wasn’t enough.

Urged by head coach, Dallas Eakins, who Burke describes as “a big supporter” of the project, the Marlies created their own pledge.

“At the end of the meeting, a few guys asked us what else they could do to get involved with YCP,” Burke said. “So for the first time we drafted a pledge… The Marlies had it made into two big signs – one for the concourse/fans, one for the locker room – and had every player and coach sign it.”

The Marlies are the first team to sign a pledge banner, which will be hung in both the dressing room and in Ricoh Coliseum, promising respect for all players regardless of race or sexual orientation.

The You Can Play project has seen exponential growth since its inception in February, 2010. YCP began in memory of Brendan Burke, Patrick’s younger brother who was killed in a car accident a few months after coming out publicly in an interview with ESPN.

The Marlies pledge reads as follows:

The Toronto Marlies pledge to support all of our teammates, coaches, and fans – gay or straight. We stand for the idea that athletes should be judged by their character, work ethic, and talent. Not their sexual orientation. Racist, sexist, and homophobic comments have no place in our arena. Everyone contributes. Everyone is valued. Everyone matters. We pledge to make our locker room a place of unity. We pledge to support and encourage each other, on and off the ice. We pledge to make Toronto proud to have us represent them. On behalf of the Toronto Marlies, we pledge: If you can cheer, you can cheer. If you can coach, you can coach. If you can play, You Can Play.

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