A hockey conference based in Oregon, has spoken out against homophobic bullying in sport with a view to ensuring equality and fairness for gay athletes.

The PAC-8 Hockey Conference, a college hockey program, has joined the You Can Play project, a campaign to ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation.

The program aims to focus on the skills and competitive spirt of athletes, rather than the “culture of locker rooms and spectator areas”.

Johnny Nguyen, Executive Director for the PAC-8, which has expressed unequivocal support for the program, released a released a statement:

“It’s unfortunate that this sort of declaration is still necessary,” he said, “but the teams of the PAC-8, and the conference itself, have pledged their commitment to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all athletes in the locker room, in the stands, and on the ice.

“We hope that by taking this unified stance as a conference, we send a powerful and clear message to the hockey world and beyond that homophobia at any level is simply unacceptable.”

Patrick Burke, co-founder of You Can Play, said:

“You Can Play is thrilled to have the support of the PAC-8 Conference,” he continued, “Their athletes and administrators are showing tremendous leadership in addressing this issue head on. We are excited that LGBT athletes have a safe home in the PAC-8.”

The Oregon Ducks, one of the PAC-8 teams Tweeted about its support for the project:

“We are taking a stand for #equality in our sport and proud to support @YouCanPlayTeam #PAC8 #LGBT #LGBTQ #Ally”