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NHL prospect Luke Prokop turns out to be gay in league first
Prokop and the Nashville Predators, the NHL team that drafted him in 2020, confirmed the news in statements on their respective Instagram accounts.

Prokop, a 19-year-old defenseman who currently plays for the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League, said that while the last year and a half of the pandemic was “crazy,” it gave him the chance to ” find [his] true self. “

“From a young age, I dreamed of being an NHL player, and I believe that living my authentic life will allow me to fully develop myself on the ice and improve my chances of achieving my dreams,” we read in part in his statement.

“I hope that by sharing who I am I can help others see that gay people are welcome in the hockey community as we work to make sure hockey is really for everyone.” , he wrote.

The leaders of the national and western hockey leagues responded in favor of Prokop.

Nashville Predators President and CEO Sean Henry said the organization was “proud of Luke for the courage he showed in coming out” and that the team “would support him unequivocally in the days, the weeks and years to come as he continues to develop as a prospect. ”

“A long-standing goal of our organization is equality for all, including the LGBTQ community, and it is important that Luke feels comfortable and part of an inclusive environment as he advances in his career. “Henry said in a statement shared on the team’s Instagram account.

Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robinson said “the whole WHL community” was proud of Prokop for his admission and hailed him as a role model for other young hockey players and players. people from the LGBTQ + community. ”

The Predators signed Prokop on a three-year entry contract after selecting him in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft. Prokop has not played in an NHL game to date.

CNN has reached out to representatives for Prokop for comment and is awaiting a response.

There are few openly gay active players in the country’s major sports leagues

Prokop has yet to play an NHL game, but if he does, he will join a very small club: There have only been two openly gay players active in the four biggest American sports leagues – Carl Nassib of the NFL Las Vegas Raiders. , who came out last month, and Jason Collins, an NBA veteran who came out in 2013 and retired the following season.

Experts previously told CNN that part of the reason men in professional sports may be reluctant to go out is due to the narrow ideal of masculinity that permeates sports culture. Homophobic language is often used among coaches and players of youth sports teams. This can evolve into enduring homophobic attitudes or cause gay gamers to hide their sexuality from teammates, said Erik Denison, behavioral specialist and principal investigator of the Sport Inclusion Project at Monash University in Australia, in an interview with CNN. in June.

But confined athletes and LGBTQ youth could see a positive example in people like Prokop and Nassib, whose teams have supported them after their release and continue to thrive in their sport.

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