NHL hockey player Sean Avery became the first New York pro athlete to publicly support marriage equality as part of HRC’s NY4Marriage campaign. (NYT):

Avery, a 31-year-old from Pickering, Ontario, has played nine seasons in the N.H.L. Known as a fashion-conscious, on-ice agitator, he has never been afraid of what others think of him.

“The places I’ve played and lived the longest have been in West Hollywood, Calif., when I played for the L.A. Kings, and when I moved to New York, I lived in Chelsea for the first four years,” Avery said in a phone interview. “I certainly have been surrounded by the gay community. And living in New York and when you live in L.A., you certainly have a lot of gay friends.”

Avery, who lives in the SoHo section of Manhattan and keeps a home in Los Angeles, said some of those friends had wanted to marry, and he saw no reason they should not.

“I’m certainly open to it,” he said. “Maybe I can help, and I jumped at this opportunity.”

This is no overall controversy at this point, since the latest polls show a majority of Americans are in favor of marriage equality; however in sports, support moves at a glacial pace. Greg Wyshynski at Yahoo Sports had this to say about Avery’s impact.

[I]t’s inspiring to see an NHL player have an actual on-the-record opinion on something beyond frivolity. Hate the player, hate his politics … how many fans are going to sit there and condemn Avery for doing this? For speaking out? Isn’t it nice to know at least some of these guys give a damn about something?

Granted, this is good business for Avery, too. They’re his politics, but they’re also part of his brand: Fashion, restaurants, whatever sort of commentary he enters into after his playing days. To say something off the cuff is different than a calculated effort to endorse a movement, at least for someone as well-known as Avery.

…You also can’t mention Sean Avery in support of gays without recalling the problems the New York Rangers have had with that community in years past, with gay fans claiming MSG was a cesspool of homophobia. Having Avery, in his Rangers sweater, in these ads can only be a good thing image-wise and for building stronger bonds with that community.

Avery doesn’t speak for hockey, but he speaks as a hockey player, and that’s important.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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