The U.S. Olympic hockey team and its general manager Brian Burke, who lost his gay son Brendan Burke in a car accident just weeks ago, has made it to the semifinals. Sports Illustrated profiles Burke, who talks about his son's death and the commitments he has made to carry on his legacy:
A few days after Brendan came out to his father, in late December 2007, Brian told him, "You know the best part? I don't have to take anything back." Burke says he never told his children there was anything wrong with homosexuality. But when he really rummages through his memory, he concedes there are smudges on his otherwise clean conscience. When he played in the American Hockey League in the late 1970s—he was a stay-at-home defenseman whose skills fast-tracked him to Harvard Law School—he spoke in the lingua franca of the locker room. "Yeah, I used those slurs," he says. "I'm embarrassed by it. It was an accepted part of the [hockey] culture, and it still is. But not on my teams. It's a big part of trash talking, and that's got to change."
After Brendan publicly revealed his sexual preference, Brian was flooded with requests to do advocacy work on behalf of gays. He told the groups that while he supported his son, he had other causes: land conservation, blood donation and children's literacy. He didn't want to dilute that work. This, too, changed on that Friday in February. Brendan's causes are Brian's now. He will do a public-service announcement aimed at eliminating the bullying of gay children. And he plans to march in the Toronto Pride Parade. "I'd promised him I would march with him," says Burke, who briefly left the Olympics last Friday to attend a memorial service for Brendan at Miami of Ohio. "He won't be there, but I will."
Good luck to Mr. Burke and to Team USA!