New York (April 12, 2020) — Athlete Ally responded today to homophobic comments tweeted by former National Hockey League champion Dustin Penner. In a series of tweets, the two-time Stanley Cup champion implied that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is both a pedophile and gay. Athlete Ally Ambassador and former hockey player Brock McGillis responded to say that comments like this directly affected his own mental health as a closeted gay athlete, and caused him to feel suicidal.
“These comments when I was coaching made me so scared to be near a kid or in a locker room out of fear that people would find out my sexuality and equate it to pedophilia,” said McGillis. “[Dustin Penner] has a big following and his remarks have the potential to influence so many.”
“Dustin Penner’s comments are disturbing and have a dangerous impact on the LGBTQI+ community,” said Hudson Taylor, Executive Director of Athlete Ally. “This is especially concerning given that COVID-19 has made mental health concerns even more pronounced. Athletes like Dustin Penner have a tremendous responsibility to use their platforms for good by modeling compassion and respect for all people, not playing upon harmful misconceptions about gay people and causing serious harm in the process.
There is no place for bigotry and intolerance in sport. The time is now for Dustin Penner and other athletes with power and influence to learn about the lived experiences of LGBTQI+ athletes, and speak out against stigma, shame and bullying. This incident underscores the urgent need for LGBTQI+ education in athletic spaces.”
If you are struggling and in need of mental health resources, please contact The Trevor Project at (866) 488-7386 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.