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Wade Davis, Out Gay Former NFL Player, Will Lead Group Promoting LGBT Equality In Sports

The You Can Play Project aims to improve the atmosphere for LGBT athletes. "I am hopeful that my background as an athlete and an LGBT youth advocate will allow me to take You Can Play to the next level," says Davis.

Posted on August 20, 2013, at 2:03 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — Former NFL player Wade Davis, who came out as gay after retiring from the sport, will be the first executive director of the You Can Play Project, an advocacy group working for equality for LGBT athletes in sports, the organization announced Tuesday.

"I am honored to have the opportunity to join such a ground-breaking organization in You Can Play," Davis said in a statement. "In a short period of time, their work has made significant strides in changing the culture of the sports world. I am hopeful that my background as an athlete and an LGBT youth advocate will allow me to take You Can Play to the next level."

A year ago, before Jason Collins or Robbie Rogers came out and before the questions about LGBT athletes' treatment in Russia were commonplace, Davis was already talking about the fact that sports remained an area where young people still were uncomfortable being gay.

"Most kids who I've talked to who are gay who play sports just don't say anything," Davis told BuzzFeed. "There are kids who stop playing sports because they're out."

In his new role, Davis, will be continuing his work to change that. He previously worked at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which helps lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth between the ages of 12 and 24.

You Can Play co-founders Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts, and Glenn Witman said in a joint statement: "Wade is an absolute home run addition for You Can Play. With a background in both professional sports and in working directly with LGBT youth, he has what can only be described as utterly unique expertise. He has worked with numerous non-profits before, and as the founder of the You Belong Initiative he has experience in fundraising, development, and administration."

In April, You Can Play announced a formal partnership with the National Hockey League to help support efforts to make the league more welcoming to LGBT players and fans. In June, the group announced a similar partnership with Major League Soccer.