University Relations Office
University of Wisconsin-Superior
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Superior, WI 54880
News and Events Details
The University of Wisconsin-Superior celebrated and unveiled a video Thursday pledging to provide a safe, respectful experience to all student athletes, regardless of their sexual orientation.
"I'm so proud of being a Yellowjacket today," said UW-Superior athletics director Steve Nelson as he held back tears. "In all my years in college athletics, 25 years, I have never seen students become more engaged in taking on a project like this."
FIRST IN WISCONSIN
UW-Superior is the first school in Wisconsin to join the national You Can Play campaign to fight homophobia in sports and produce a video. The campaign started in 2012 in the National Hockey League and has since spread to other pro sports, universities and colleges, and even some high schools.
UW-Superior's video joins those produced by such institutions as Berkeley, Georgetown, Stanford, Duke and Colorado College, as well as pro hockey teams, individual players such as former Minnesota Wild right wing Cal Clutterbuck and even some high schools.
The video features nearly 80 athletes and coaches from UW-Superior sports teams stating their support and echoing the refrain "If you can play ... You Can Play." They also did Safe Zone training, took a pledge and participated in the You Can Play video.
The event featured support from out college athletes including Derek Schell, a New Berlin, Wis., native and 6' 1" guard for the Division II Hillsdale College basketball team, who sent a video of support to UW-Superior.
The event's special guest was Scott Cooper, an Austin, Minn., native who played football as an openly gay athlete at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.
JUST WANTED TO PLAY
Cooper said he left a religious school after arguing with a psychology professor over whether sexual orientation was a matter of choice. Cooper, who has known he was gay since age 5, discovered Augsburg and was glad to find a place where it was okay to be open about his sexual orientation.
"It wasn't that I wanted to be a crusader," he said. "I just wanted to play football. I wanted people to get to know me as Scott Cooper, football player, not Scott Cooper, gay football player."
Looking further back, Cooper said coming out in high school in small-town Minnesota "was received horribly" by his family and some friends.
But the support he has received at Augsburg and since he has graduated, from friends and strangers alike, has been inspiring and deeply gratifying.In a question-and-answer session that followed his talk, Cooper was asked how straight allies and teammates could support LGBT athletes. Cooper said most LGBT athletes don't want special treatment from their teammates. They just want to be included in their conversations and activities. "Just talk to us, ask questions, like you would with your other friends," he said.
And to UW-Superior athletics, and the institution as a whole, Cooper said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing this."
Nelson said UW-Superior's commitment to inclusiveness goes beyond the athletics program and beyond sexual identity.
"This is a fundamental human rights issue and that is our agenda," he said. "We want everybody to feel comfortable at UW-Superior, not just on our sports teams but in our campus community as a whole, and we are going to continue to push forward with this agenda until inclusivity, both on our campus and beyond is no longer an issue."
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The University of Wisconsin-Superior is a public liberal arts institution of 2,650 students in the Duluth-Superior, MN-WI metro area.
Founded in 1893 as a teacher's college, UW-Superior now offers more than 30 majors, select graduate programs, and competitive Division III athletics programs, as well as research and scholarship that support the community and region.
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University of Wisconsin-Superior is an equal opportunity educator and employer