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May 5, 2014

Ilana Friedman

Bridget Woodruff

THE MODERATOR:  We are joined by UW Director of Student‑Athlete Development, Bridget Woodruff, and Ilana Friedman from the women's hockey team, who have an announcement to make regarding Wisconsin Athletics involvement in the You Can Play Project.
I'll turn it over to Bridget for some comments.
BRIDGET WOODRUFF:  Thanks, Brian.  So the You Can Play Project is a social activism campaign dedicated to eliminating homophobia within sports, specifically with the idea of challenging the culture in locker rooms and making it more inclusive and welcoming and supportive for our athletes.
The You Can Play Project schools, whether it's professional organizations, collegiate, athletic departments, high schools, people all across the nation create videos to show support for this campaign and this project.
UW Athletics has done that, taken a stand to create a video.  We had the opportunity to partner with the LGBT Campus Center to create this video through the Office of Academic Services, and Ilana was an integral role in creating the video and putting her foot forward.
I'll turn it over to Ilana.
ILANA FRIEDMAN:  So the process I think started about a year ago in the spring.  I approached Bridget and I approached the hockey team's then main overseer, Sean Frazier, and I sort of brought this to the attention of them.  I thought it was going to be a great idea.
It was something initially that I was like, well, you know, You Can Play has goals and what they stand for is very similar to sort of how the university is run and how the athletic department is run in a very positive manner and with the same mission statement, stuff like that.
So it was more‑‑ it was a thing of like why not?  Why wouldn't we do this?
So I approached Sean Frazier, and it was‑‑ and Bridget as well, and it was immediately exceptionally positive.  Their response was, absolutely.
The most meaningful, I think, thing that was said was Sean Frazier said:  We're not going to do this half.  We're going to do it whole.
And when someone in a position of power says that to an out member of the LGBT community, that was something that was‑‑ I responded very positively to that.
So over the past year, it's been a lot of scheduling stuff.  It's been writing the script for the video.  It's been meeting a lot of athletes and knowing that there's a large backing within the Wisconsin community, which has been, you know, from coaches, it's been from everyone within the athletic department, supportive staff, senior leadership.
So it's been an awesome experience as well.  I've met a lot of really, really great people, whether it's athletes or‑‑ and all the people that I've met, it's been a great experience.
So we premiered the video in front of a bunch of student‑athletes at the Buckingham, and it's been taking off from there.
THE MODERATOR:  We can watch the video, and then we'll take some questions.
(Video playing.)
Have you ever been to Wisconsin Madison?  We pride ourselves on continuing a tradition of excellence.
This tradition includes being successful students in the classroom, fierce competitors in the athletic arena, and ambassadors within our community.
This championship tradition spans 23 Division I sports and over 700 student‑athletes.
At Wisconsin, we support all student‑athletes regardless of sexual orientation.
At Wisconsin, we recognize that passion, commitment, and perseverance unites us.
No matter where we're from, our race, sexual orientation, or gender, we are all Badgers.
Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness.
There are allies in every department.
And every team.
Creating an inclusive environment.
On the practice ground of athletics.
At Wisconsin, if you can continue our tradition, you can play.
If you can serve, you can serve.
If you can race, you can race.
If you can drive, you can drive.
If you can compete, you can compete.
If you can lead, you can lead.
If you shoot, you can shoot.
You can tackle, you can tackle.
If you can coach, you can coach.
If you can swim, you can swim.
If you can lift, you can lift.
If you can play, you can play.
(End of video.)
THE MODERATOR:  We can go ahead and take questions for either Bridget or Ilana.

Q.  Ilana, does it kind of make you feel proud when you see all of the student‑athletes and people that are involved in that video spreading this message?
ILANA FRIEDMAN:  Yeah, absolutely.  I think it's a testament to the progressive ideas that are all across Madison, all across Wisconsin athletics.
It's been great to see the reception, whether it was after the Buckinghams and getting texts from more student‑athletes wanting to participate further or just telling me how cool the video was.
The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, which is a great thing.
Yes, it's been really cool.  It's been really fun.  Yes, it's been a great experience.

Q.  I guess at the professional level, the Jason Collins and the Michael Sams of the world all in the last year have come out.  Why did it take this long for stuff like this to kind of come to fruition?
ILANA FRIEDMAN:  I think one of the things, you know, being an athlete and being around my teammates for so much of the day, 24/7, always being with them, you develop a really, really close personal relationship with people, and I think sharing such a personal part of someone is kind of a scary thing at times, especially definitely with men's sports.  There's this thing with masculinity and with being gay.  I think those were once conflicting ideas.
I think that's now being challenged with partnerships like You Can Play where it doesn't matter who I like off the field.  It doesn't matter what my favorite color is.  If it I can help to raise a banner, I think that's the thing that people are really starting to recognize, that that's what matters.
And it's helpful when we have advocates like Jason Collins or really significant events like Michael Sam coming out.  I think that definitely helps the atmosphere and the inclusion.

Q.  It's helpful when you have those athletes coming out.  I'm assuming you would agree that it's more helpful, though, when the reception to their coming out is overwhelmingly positive.
ILANA FRIEDMAN:  Yeah.  Yeah, that definitely helps.  I think, you know, when people, such as myself even, who are very comfortable in their sexuality see the positive reception, that's going to help me come out even more.
If I had approached someone within the athletic department and they were like, I'm not so sure, obviously, that's going to be a tough pill to swallow.
I think the reason this has been so awesome and such a great experience has been because of the fact that it's been so resoundingly positive.

Q.  It's a pretty basic message, if you can play, you can play.  How did you hit upon that?
ILANA FRIEDMAN:  Well, it's a big message with‑‑ I mean, You Can Play, their tag line is:  If you can play, you can play.
I think one of the things that I've repeated is that it doesn't matter how I‑‑ you know, what I like to do in my spare time.  It's more about the work ethic and just all the things that go into being a good teammate.  Who I like off the ice doesn't have any impact on that.
One thing that I'll say is that my teammates have been overwhelmingly supportive.  There's two teammates in the video, but every single person has my back within the locker room.  And that goes across all sports at Wisconsin.  I've had rowers.  I've had track people.  I've had Chris Borland, he‑‑ you know, it was great.  It's been really, really great.

Q.  It's been overwhelmingly positive, but obviously two sides to every coin.  Has there been any negative pushback?  If so, how do you deal with that?
ILANA FRIEDMAN:  Actually, no, there hasn't been.  I think that's really important to recognize because of how much‑‑ there's a lot of negativity with coming out sometimes.  There's a lot of LGBT bullying.  That's a very, very common phenomenon, which I think is very upsetting.
It's so poignant to recognize that I haven't had any of that in Madison.  I haven't had any of that within Wisconsin athletics, and that's something that's very, very important to recognize because so often it happens.
I mean, honestly, I could not tell you one person that's been weird about it or anything.  It's been even more of a positive thing than negative.

Q.  Bridget, what do you think about Ilana doing this and what it means really for the University of Wisconsin, the athletic department, too, kind of being a leader in this?
BRIDGET WOODRUFF:  Absolutely.  When Ilana came to me, it was that thank you for bringing this forward and wanting to be active in this.  And then it was:  How can we support you and what can we do to make this happen?
So I was thrilled.  You know, she's been a leader all throughout.  It was great to be able to partner with campus as well to kind of make a push, and it's evident from all of the individuals in that video that this is across the board.  It's not just some students saying we're supportive or one or two.  It's everyone, from the coaches to the senior staff.
So it's been a great experience, and I'm just glad I got to do it with Ilana.
THE MODERATOR:  Any other questions?  Thank you.

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