Kent State LGBTQ center releases student-athlete video


Screenshot of LGBTQ video

Ian Flickinger

Kent State’s LGBTQ Student Center released a video featuring members of the university’s student-athlete community in support of the You Can Play Project, a national organization who works to ensure the safety and acceptance of LGBTQ athletes.

The video, which features university president Beverly Warren and athletic director Joe Nielsen, includes a message of acceptance, saying all student-athletes can play regardless of who they are.

Ken Ditlevson, director of Kent State’s LGBTQ Student Center, said he met with members of different academic departments and student groups when he started as director last November.

“It…came about because we want to have diversity in all of our areas on campus, and we haven’t had as much communication with athletics,” he said.

You Can Play Project

The “You Can Play Project” was created in 2012 by Patrick Burke, director of player safety for the NFL; Brian Kitts, a sports and entertainment executive; and Glenn Witman of Gforce Sports. According to its mission statement, “You Can Play works to ensure safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBT athletes, coaches and fans” and is partnered with the NFL, NHL, MLS and WWE.

Ditlevson also started an advising council, made up of members from different members from campus and the community.

One area the council wanted to focus on was athletics. He recruited Angie Hull, assistant athletic director for student-athlete academic services, to join the board.

“First, we just wanted to change the messaging,” Hull said. “I think that was a good first step, that athletics is inclusive for all students.”

Production on the video began over the summer, and Hull said male athletes were the first to step forward in support of the video, which she said came as a surprise.

“We really jumped into it with two feet,” Ditlevson said. “We had very little resistance, and we just started working on it (last summer.) It (is) something that kind of happened organically with little problems.”

Ditlevson said he believes the video is the first step in the right direction in addressing traditional stereotypes and changing the culture in athletics departments.

“Sports as a whole has so much stigma and masculinity involved, particularly on the male teams,” he said. “(The stereotype is) ‘If someone’s gay, they’re not going to have sports talent.’ And that’s so far away from the truth. If you’re gay and you’re good and a talented athlete, we want you to be a part of our teams, not just in sports, but in all our academic programs as well.”

Hull said she put an announcement out on the athletics listserv announcing that they were doing the video. Student-athletes had the choice to participate in the video or not. As the video shows, the athletic community made a strong statement of support.

“I want to get the message out that not only athletics, but the university is very accepting of people no matter of where they go,” she said.

About a dozen student-athletes, from various teams like golf and volleyball, participated in the video as You Can Play’s “straight allies.”

“They don’t see a person that way,” Hull said. “They see the person as their teammate, but I think it’s important that they recognize that community and what they go through.”

Ditlevson said the video is the first of several videos featuring student-athletes.

“It’s still an issue. Changing culture really takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight,” Ditlevson said. “But with this generation, it definitely, we’ve got so much more accepting and understanding to diversity. It’s nice to see that, but it’s not in every setting and with every person.”


Ian Flickinger is the sports editor for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].