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Macklemore's You Can Play anti-homophobic PSA filmed at Winter on the Rocks at Red Rocks

Macklemore at Red Rocks last month for Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks 2013.
Macklemore at Red Rocks last month for Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks 2013.
Eric Gruneisen

If you've heard the considerably poignant "Same Love," then you know exactly what Macklemore's stance on same sex relationships is. But just in case there was even the slightest bit of ambiguity, the Seattle rapper (aka Ben Haggerty), who's slated to make his debut on Saturday Night Live this weekend, has gone ahead and filmed a short PSA for the Colorado-based organization, You Can Play. It was important enough to him, in fact, that he and Ryan Lewis delayed their soundcheck at Winter on the Rocks to make it happen.

See also:

- Gay athletes: Patrick Burke shares his late brother Brendan's positive coming-out story

- Review: Macklemore at Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks 2013

- Macklemore on what rap album he'd take with him on the mothership

Gay athletes. Straight allies. Teaming up for respect.

That's the motto of You Can Play, the Denver-based non-profit founded by Patrick Burke, Glenn Whitman and Brian Kitts, that Macklemore filmed the sport for at Red Rocks. The goal of the group is simply to create awareness in an effort to help eliminate homophobia in sports, particularly for folks to be more conscious of the slurs that seem to be tossed around so flippantly, that tends to foster an unwelcoming environment. You Can Play is ultimately about showing respect regardless of sexual orientation.

According to Kitts, who handled marketing for Kroenke Sports for over a decade and who's now the Director of Marketing for Arts & Venues Denver, the You Can Play organization came together almost exactly a year ago (the group will celebrate its first anniversary on Monday). The grassroots organization is still rather small and not the primary focus of its principles, who each hold down other jobs -- or are pursuing other careers. Kitts obviously works for the city, Burke is in law school and Whitman is real estate developer.

But while the group officially launched last March, Kitts and his co-founders had actually met in January 2011 at the University of Denver, where Kitts teaches sports and entertainment marketing, when Patrick Burke was moderating a panel discussion about gay athletes. The subject is close to Burke, whose late brother Brendan, who played hockey for Miami University in Ohio, came out a few years previous. When Brendan lost his life in a car accident, Patrick, a scout for the Philadephia Flyers, took up the cause. And he found kindred spirits in Whitman and Kitts.

"I think all of us had some experience with sports and knew that there were issues around homophobia in sports that are either real or imagined," says Kitts. "I think that we saw that especially with kids and when you're in grade school or junior high, you call the kid next to you a fag because that's what kids do. It doesn't mean that you mean it, but if you are that gay kid, it's pretty harmful.

"And I think in Patrick's case, he saw that his younger brother was actually willing to walk away from hockey because he was so anxious about what would happen to him if people found out he was gay. And that's something that none of us wanted to see continue. We realized at the time that there were no "out" players in the big leagues, when we know that there are gay players. We thought if we could get a couple of athletes to talk about this maybe it will help start changing the culture of locker rooms and seating areas."

So far, You Can Play has filmed hundreds of PSAs, primarily featuring athletes, including the Colorado Mammoth, the first professional franchise Colorado to film a clip, which is slated to aired at the Pepsi Center tomorrow night. DU's men's basketball and hockey teams, women's basketball and gymnastics, as well as teams from Colorado College, are among those that have participated.

"We've been very clear that when we ask these men and women to participate that they address sports issues specifically -- 'Do you want to win,' and 'Is it okay if a gay or lesbian athlete helps you win?'" he explains. "We don't ask them to talk about marriage. We don't ask them to talk about workplace equality. Even though those are important issues to us, we think that we've got a better chance of making inroads if we talk specifically about sports."

Macklemore is the first entertainer You Can Play has approached to shoot a spot, and according to Kitts, the group reached out to him specifically.

"You can tell from the way Macklemore talks and dresses that he's a sports fan," declares Kitts. "We knew that he had a history of speaking out on LGBT issues. He'd spoken pretty openly about his uncles and I think godfather, and they already had a number one record in Australia/New Zealand with a song that's an out and out call out for gay marriage.

"And so it was one of those things where you take a chance, and you figure out who the manager is and send him a note and ask if they're interested," he goes on. "You know, there's no money involved. It's just one of those things. You know, we will go to the hotel. We'll film you in the parking lot on your tour bus. It doesn't matter. And there's this silence, and you think, 'Alright, that's not unexpected.' Then all of the sudden the email pops up saying yes they'll do it, and it will be at six o'clock, and you have to be ready backstage at Red Rocks, and you've got fifteen minutes. At the time, we knew 'Thrift Shop' was headed for number one, and you just don't get these kinds of chances very often."

So Kitts and company dutifully showed up at Red Rocks with an idea in mind of how they were going to shoot the PSA backstage. While he and his crew were discussing the logistics, a guy in glasses was sitting in the corner working on a laptop and listening in. When he heard their plan, "the guy says, 'Why don't I help you?'" Kitts recalls. "He goes, 'What you're doing sounds really sterile. Why don't you do this on stage?"

The guy? Ryan Lewis.

"Even though he's not in the video," says Kitts, "he's the one that said, 'You should move this on stage. I will make it happen. Sound check was going on and they're the only ones who can basically halt soundcheck for you to get this done. And so they screwed around with the lights and made whoever was doing soundcheck stop. You don't get those chances very often, where the guy says, 'You're doing something very sterile. Let me fix this for you," and it's the headliner."

With Lewis's input, the video turned out great, and the clip will definitely help create greater exposure with a whole new audience, one in which the overarching sentiment may not necessarily be top of mind. "These are men and women for whom LGBT issues may not make any difference at all," he allows. "But they see the video and they think about it, and on most days, that's the best we can ask for. And if they realize that they're potentially hurting people by their language, and they change it, then that's good enough for us."





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