"If you can play, you can play."
That's the anti-bullying message that student athletes in Colorado are sending with a statewide video contest designed to combat discrimination and homophobia in sports -- both on the field and in the locker room.
“Some of my best friends are my teammates and I will do anything to help them succeed. That includes accepting them, whether they are gay or straight,” alternating students say in the video. “Regardless of their race, religion or background. None of that matters to me. What does matter is heart, talent and skill.”
Brian Kitts, who is based in Denver and co-founded the You Can Play Project, said that it's important to create a culture of inclusion in athletics.
"What 'You Can Play' seeks to do is equalize things in the locker room, clean up language in the locker room that is casually homophobic and in the stands as well," Kitt's said in a video about the project. "Locker rooms are all about honesty and providing a sense of security and I don't think that a lot of athletes are able to feel that if they're hiding their sexuality."
The project is also working with the Colorado High School Activities Association to encourage young athletes to make their own video on the theme of inclusion. The wining team will earn $2,500 for either their team or their school.
“We were trying to approach this from the standpoint that there’s a lot of kids that would like to stand up to bullying, hazing or harassment, but don’t know how or have permission,” CHSAA commissioner Paul Angelico told ABC News. “Not only do you have permission, you have an obligation.”
Just last week, the You Can Play Project also announced that professional teams like the Colorado Avalanche, the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Mammoths and others would also be making videos to support the project's high school initiative.
“CHSAA’s statewide inclusion of a program like You Can Play is truly the first of its kind in the United States,” Kitts said in a statement. “We’ve talked with coaches, athletic directors and activity advisors, and students from across Colorado, and we’re really enthusiastic about the response."