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‘Don’t be afraid’ -- Panthers’ Ekblad voices support for LGBT athletes

2016 Honda NHL All-Star - Portraits

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 30: Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers poses for a 2016 NHL All-Star portrait at Bridgestone Arena on January 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)

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Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad has recently voiced his support of the LGBT community -- and LGBT athletes in particular.

The 21-year-old Ekblad recently made the comments to Boca Raton Magazine, following an appearance in a Nike commercial supporting the LGBT community.

From Boca Raton Magazine:

“Don’t be afraid. You’ll be surprised by how many people are accepting,” he says, elaborating on how sports teams across the U.S., particularly hockey teams, have become friendlier in recent years—at least in official parlance—toward LGBT individuals.

Although homophobic talk still occurs in locker rooms, Ekblad believes that overall, society’s tolerance for and acceptance of LGBT people has progressed. Though Ekblad is not LGBT, he says he identifies as an ally, someone who is openly supportive of the LGBT community.

“Do I think it’s getting better? I think so. People are getting more educated and more understanding,” he says. “I would like to think the climate is getting better.”

Over the years, hockey figures like Brian Burke and Sean Avery have made it clear they are ready to support any player that comes out as openly gay, while a number of NHL players on different teams have taken part and marched in Pride parades throughout various cities across the league.