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Brendan Burke dead at 21 — coming out story captured national attention in 2009

Friday, February 5, 2010
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Brendan Burke, son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, who gained national attention just months ago in a moving coming out story profiled by ESPN.com, died today in a tragic automobile accident. He was 21 years old.

“We are saddened to report that Brendan Burke, the youngest son of Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke, succumbed to injuries he suffered in an auto accident … in Indiana,” the Leafs said in a statement Friday night. “The family asks for privacy at this difficult time.”

Burke, who was an assistant on the University of Miami (Ohio) hockey team, was reportedly driving east on a snow-covered U.S. 35 in a Jeep Grand Cherokee when his vehicle slid sideways into an oncoming 1997 Ford Truck,. Burke’s passenger, 18-year-old Mark Reedy, also died in the accident.

The younger Burke rose to national prominence last year when he told his story of the love and acceptance received from his dad after coming out as gay.

In a profile by ESPN sports columnist John Buccigross, Brendan Burke’s story was told in a poignant second-person narration, inviting the reader to put himself into Brendan’s shoes, while describing the young man’s journey into self discovery.

In an excerpt from the essay:

On this night in 2007, you are petrified of your dad. Because you, Brendan Burke, at 19 years old, are about to tell your dad, Mr. Testosterone, that you are gay.”

In a statement in the article from the elder Burke at the time, “I had a million good reasons to love and admire Brendan. This news didn’t alter any of them.”

Brendan told reporters he hoped his story will give others the confidence to come forward.

“I think it’s important my story is told to people because there are a lot of gay athletes out there and gay people working in pro sports that deserve to know there are safe environments where people are supportive regardless of your sexual orientation,” he said.

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