The NWHL is thrilled to have more than a dozen players and staff attending the New York City Pride Parade on Sunday. The NWHL will be joined by other sports leagues and march alongside its partners with You Can Play, an organization seeking to change the culture of sports, making it a more inclusive place for all sexual orientations and gender identities.
The partnership between You Can Playand the NWHL not only promotes the message of inclusion to the hockey community, but according to You Can Play Vice President Chris Mosier, it acknowledges that respect and advocacy are crucial parts of the NWHL’s mission. Mosier explained that “Sport is a vehicle for social change and can lead the way for the rest of society. The more we have sports leagues and teams as well as individual athletes embrace LGBTQ inclusion and let others know they are allies, the more we will see the impacts outside of sport as well.”
Professional sports leagues are joining the fight to include LGBTQ representation in athletics, displaying allyship and acceptance. As Pride Month is in full swing, leagues across the country have been celebrating LGBTQ athletes, marching in pride parades and donating to organizations that promote equality for those in the queer community. The NWHL is proud to join the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLS, MLB, and NHL on Sunday at the parade.
Joining the NWHL crew at the Pride March is Madison Packer, a forward for the Riveters who finished with 18 points last season. Packer explained that she is looking forward to marching on Sunday with her girlfriend, Connecticut Whale player Anya Battaglino.
“This is the first time I am partaking in any Pride festivities, so I am looking forward to it,” Packer said. “Last year they had a great turnout with players from different teams, and I heard it was a blast.”
As a youngster, Battaglino sometimes felt a lack of acceptance in hockey, and the absence of LGBTQ role models in sports. As a professional hockey player who also identifies with the LGBTQ community, she is doing her part to change this culture.
“Growing up I definitely did not feel like there was an accepting community within sports, much of that came from playing hockey primarily with boys growing up,” Battaglino said. “Furthermore, in high school, there were so many social pressures that went straight from the hallways to the locker room.”
Battaglino explained that it took until college for her to feel accepted in the hockey community. She cites her teammates as crucial in getting her to that place. Now as a professional athlete, she uses her platform to be a role model and create an inclusive space in hockey for everyone.
Battaglino explained why taking part in Pride events is an important aspect of being a supporter and ally of the LGBTQ community.
“When the NWHL participates in events like the Pride March, it reinforces how close our league is, and even though the battles might get heated on the ice, we all believe passionately in equality and acceptance,” Battaglino said. “We have players in the LGBTQ+ community as well as allies walking with us on Sunday, and I can assure you that’s the climate in our locker rooms and throughout our league. It doesn't matter where you are from or what your backstory might be when you become a part of the NWHL, you become part of one family.”