Major League Soccer sets partnership with You Can Play project

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber. (Kathy Willens/AP file photo)

Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union have announced a partnership with the You Can Play project, an organization which advocates equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes across sports.

"The diversity found in our League has always been a point of pride for us," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "We are proud to partner with You Can Play to ensure that all of our fans and players know that MLS is committed to providing a safe environment where everyone is treated equally, and with dignity and respect.”

MLS has already established a reputation as one of the most progressive sports leagues in the U.S. - and beyond. The league has run a video ad campaign called "Don't Cross The Line" for a few years, featuring prominent American and international players.

This season, MLS became the home of the first openly gay male athlete to take the field with a professional sports team after coming out. Robbie Rogers, a 25-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder, has been universally well-received across the league.

"Our players strongly believe that as the world’s most popular game, soccer should be open to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation," MLS Players Union executive director Bob Foose said. "We as a Union are committed to expanding our outreach to ensure that all players and fans feel welcome in MLS as we continue to expand our dedicated and diverse fan base."

You Can Play will build upon MLS’ existing anti-discrimination education and training resources, and players will have the ability to seek counseling or ask questions confidentially, providing professional athletes with a resource that is often lacking.

MLS is the second top sports league in the U.S. to partner with You Can Play. The NHL struck the first deal this past April.

"This partnership with MLS and the MLS Players Union confirms the message that MLS will not tolerate discrimination of any kind inside the locker rooms, on the field or in the stands," You Can Play president Patrick Burke said. "We will be able to provide vital resources directly to the players, while also ensuring that every soccer fan feels welcome to attend MLS events."